Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sugee (Semolina) Almond Cookies


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I noticed something strange. As you may already know, sugee (also known as soogee, suji or sugi) is basically semolina. Yet, when I searched for a Sugee Cookie recipe, I ended up with quite a few which did not contain a single grain of semolina! I realised that most of these were really vanilla or almond cookies. So why call them sugee? In the words of Eminem, will the real Sugee Cookie please stand up, please stand up?

Well, super-sleuth me decided to refine my search and typed "sugee semolina cookies", which yielded a find at Food.com - contributed by a fellow Singaporean, no less. When I saw the word "semolina", I punched a triumphant fist in the air (yes, I am quite the drama queen, even in solitude). Now we're talkin'. So I gave it a browse, and although the recipe - described as "a very OLD Singaporean/Eurasian recipe" - looked sound, I felt that it was missing a crucial ingredient.

Salt.

Perhaps the Eurasian way of making Sugee Cookies doesn't require salt but for many Chinese-style cookies, salt is a must. Think peanut cookies, or almond cookies, or pineapple tarts ... the sweetness is always nuanced with sudden bursts of saltiness*.
* Actually, the same principle applies to many western-style desserts too. Chocolate with fleur de sel, anyone?

Anyhow, I decided to make 2 batches: one following the recipe to a 'T', and the other with 1/4 tsp salt. You wanna know what happened? Tune in next week.

Nah, just kidding.

The batch without salt tasted curiously like Kjeldsens Danish Butter Cookies! They were buttery and sweet, but tasted a bit flat.

The second batch was a lot more like the Sugee Cookies I grew up eating. And it was quite incredible how a mere 1/4 tsp salt made all the difference. Simply put, it gave depth. Food should have layers of flavours, no?

The one thing I observed was that using semolina flour gives a crispy, sablé-like texture. Both batches of cookies were sandy and crumbly, even on the fourth day. Me likey!

So yeah, there you have it. Sugee cookies that contain sugee. How on earth the star ingredient went missing in the first place is beyond me. LOL!

A big thanks to the kind lady who shared this recipe. Without you, I would have sadly assumed that authentic Sugee Cookies had gone into extinction. Now I wonder, should I try substituting butter with ghee? Would that not give the cookies an even stronger Asian flavour? You think?

Recipe
(from here)
Yields about 20 cookies

- 125 g butter
- 75 g soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 100 g plain flour
- 75 g semolina
- 25 g ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp salt (I would recommend adding this)
- Almond strips for garnishing
- 1 egg white, beaten

1. Grease baking trays lightly with butter and preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Cream butter, sugar and essence until light.

3. Sift in flour.

4. Add in semolina, ground almonds and salt to combine well into a dough.
* I would suggest chilling your dough for about 6-8mins before handling it (in tropical weather, especially).

5. Pinch off pieces and roll into small balls and place on prepared trays.
* Note that these cookies expand when baked, so make sure you leave about an inch between each one. I used a teaspoon to make sure every cookie was of uniform size.

6. Press gently with a fork.
* I didn't bother. Just used my fingers. ;)

7. Brush lightly with egg white and press two almond strips in the centre of each pressed out dough.
* Up to you, really. One strip, two strips, almond sliver, almond half ... you decide.

8. Bake in a preheated oven for 13 to 14 minutes or until cookies turn golden.
* I brought the temperature down to 170°C when I popped the cookies in, knowing how my oven tends to overheat. The tops and bottoms of the cookies should turn a golden brown colour.

9. Leave on the tray for 1 to 2 minutes.

10. Remove onto a wire rack to cool. Then store in an airtight container.
* I don't know how well these cookies keep. I stored them in a plastic container and they remained sandy and crispy even after 4 days, but beyond that, I really don't know. To "refresh" your cookies, preheat your ovenette toaster on high for about 8mins, then pop the cookies in and turn off the heat. Let them remain in there for about 5mins, in the residual heat. The cookies will taste (nearly) oven fresh again.


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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Panfried Prawns In Soya Sauce (For My Cooking Hut)

Hi everyone! I'm very happy to be doing my third guest post, this time for My Cooking Hut. :) Lee Mei - a fellow Teochew - is the brains and talent behind this beautiful blog. I got to know her almost 2 years ago - her blog was already hugely popular then - and I instantly fell in love with her food and photography. Who wouldn't, really?

Since then, My Cooking Hut has become one of my must-reads, and Lee Mei, one of my favourite bloggers.


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Seeing that Lee Mei and I both love prawns, I decided to cook a very homely but delicious dish of Panfried Prawns in Soy Sauce for this guest post. Chinese New Year is less than 2 weeks away, and since prawns are a must-have* at many dinner tables, I wanted to share an easy recipe that anyone can follow.
* Prawns in cantonese are called "ha", which sounds like laughter (and therefore associated with happiness). Chinese serve prawns for that auspicious reason, in the hope of heralding in a joyous new year.

To see how this dish is prepared, please visit the wonderful My Cooking Hut. Thank you, Lee Mei, for this wonderful and generous invitation!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Banana Rum Cake


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I love days when I bake on a whim, style without much thought, yet reap photos that are blog-worthy. Today was one such day. Even the crack in the cake looked artistic. :) I am one happy girl.

Now, delicious as it may be, I am not going to wax lyrical over a plain ol' banana cake. But if you are looking for a moist, fluffy version with some soul, this one pretty much fits the bill.


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I made changes to the idiot-proof recipe which I always use ... and it was the addition of rum in place of vanilla extract that I was most pleased with. I can see myself doing this from now on. Rum enhances the taste, vanilla can be a little distracting. That's just my take, anyway.

So, that's all for today, folks! I'm keeping this post simple and sweet, much like this Banana Rum Cake. :) Have a good week ahead, everyone.

Recipe
(modified from here)
- 90g canola or sunflower oil
- 90g castor sugar (which I reduced to 70g)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 125g flour (plain flour is fine)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 4 medium-sized bananas, mashed with a fork
- 25g evaporated milk or regular milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp rum)

1. Beat egg and sugar till light and creamy.

2. Add milk, mashed bananas, oil and rum, and combine.

3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and baking soda, and give a quick whisk. Fold in flour into the wet ingredients until no traces of flour remain. Do not over-mix. Stop the moment everything is incorporated.

5. Pour into a lined 6-inch round tray.

6. Bake at 175 degree celsius for about 40mins, or until cooked.


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I am submitting this post to Muhibbah Malaysian Monday hosted by Sharon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tai Cheong Bakery Egg Tarts - Not!


Disclaimer: Note that these are NOT Tai Cheong Bakery egg tarts.
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I don't quite know where to begin. I don't even know why I am writing this post. Maybe it's the need for some answers. Some time ago, I saw an article at CNNGo featuring the famous Tai Cheong Bakery in Hong Kong, and included in that article was the recipe for their hugely popular egg tarts. Yes, you heard right ... the recipe for Tai Cheong's iconic egg tarts.

So, I bookmarked it and last weekend, managed to get down to trying it out. However, when I perused the ingredients and measurements, I started wondering if there was some mistake. Now, I have baked egg tarts a few times before this, and although recipes may differ, the ratios of eggs to sugar to milk don't usually vary that much. But this. This threw me off guard.

Take for example, the recipe for the egg custard. If you look at it (bottom of this post), you will notice that there is a whole lotta sugar - 450g. With that, you make a sugar solution with 450ml water and then add it to 4 eggs and 200ml evaporated milk. Seriously, 450g sugar? For 4 eggs?

Despite my reservations, I went ahead with the instructions.

Then it was time to bake. At that point, I was prepared for a fiasco. In the article, the egg mixture was described as "a thick egg liquid" ... yet, mine was diluted and runny. Not a good sign. So I did the cautious thing and sent 6 sacrificial tarts into the oven. Blimey, the custard in all 6 bubbled and bubbled - yes, like a soup!

In the end, after about 45 painful minutes - when the pastry had browned and the custard still hadn't set - I took out all the tarts and allowed them to cool. And then I took a bite. The crust turned out fine, but the custard - if you could even call it that - was just gooey, saccharine madness. I couldn't even bring myself to take a second bite ... and I'm Little Miss Sweet Tooth, in case you've forgotten. Obviously the test batch ended up in the bin. I do regret not taking some photos of the gory evidence.

Now, what was I to do with all the egg syrup and unbaked shells? Why, switch to my non-existent Plan B, of course!

I poured out a third of the egg syrup into another bowl, added 2 more eggs, added a bit more milk, added a dash of vanilla extract, sieved the mixture, and then prayed.

The new batch went into the oven and finally, I got to see the familiar swell of egg custard being cooked.


Disclaimer: Note that these are NOT Tai Cheong Bakery egg tarts.

This time, the tarts turned out (surprisingly) edible. Frankly, I was just relieved the ingredients didn't go to waste. Thank goodness for experience, however little. At least I could improvise! If I had been a newbie, I would have helplessly thrown everything away.

So, Tai Cheong Egg Tarts? Sure, if I'm were in Hong Kong and BUYING them. But I don't think I would be baking them. *wry smile*

If there is anyone who has successfully made egg tarts using this particular recipe, please let me know. I need some closure ... perhaps the reason for this pointless post. Meh.


Disclaimer: Note that these are NOT Tai Cheong Bakery egg tarts.
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Tai Cheong Bakery Egg Tarts
(Recipe from CNNGo)*
* Disclaimer: I did not have a good experience baking with this recipe.

Pastry:
- Flour 450g
- Sugar 110g
- Evaporated milk 2 teaspoons
- Margarine 110g
- Butter 110g

Egg Custard Filling:
- Water 450ml
- Evaporated milk 200ml
- Sugar 450g
- Egg 4pcs

Pre-heat the baking oven to 300°C

Method
Pastry:
1. Mix all pastry ingredients and knead it into a dough.
2. Refrigerate the dough for 2 hours, re-knead it before use.
3. Roll out the dough and cut it to small dough balls, then press the balls into the tart shells.
4. Pour the egg custard filling into the shells. Bake it 5 minutes until the pastry turns gold brown, then bake for another 15 minutes at 150°C.

Egg Custard Filling:
1. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, set it aside to cool down.
2. Stir in the egg, evaporated milk with the cold sugar water.
3. Sieve the mixture and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before pouring it into the shells with pastry on.


Disclaimer: Note that these are NOT Tai Cheong Bakery egg tarts.
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

(David Lebovitz) French Chocolate Macarons


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So, how many of you have been baking away in preparation for the Chinese New Year? :) If you have been busy churning out pineapple tarts, sugee cakes, kueh lapis and all the other yolk-laden, artery-clogging festive goodies, you're bound to be left with plenty of egg whites. What do you do with them? I foresee more egg whites over the next 2 weeks, so any suggestions would be most welcomed! For now, I did the obvious - make macarons. :)

I baked these rich French Chocolate Macarons using David Lebovitz's superb recipe ... and I have to say, this is the first time I got a near-perfect batch. The planets were aligned! The addition of (Valrhona) dutch-processed cocoa powder made a universe of difference, and the intense chocolatey flavour made me see stars. If you are looking for a good chocolate macaron recipe, this one is gold. Thanks to my fellow blogger, keropokman, for the recommendation!

For the recipe, click here. The only deviation I made was to omit the prune filling because me no likey prunes. Bleah.

And ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of today's post. There is really nothing left to be said about these famed French cookies. Seriously, just look at the plethora of information on the Internet! Everyone has their favourite macaron recipe, tip, secret and so forth. You just have to read and experiment, and see what works for you, and what doesn't.

Good luck! And oh, if you haven't made macarons before, and feel intimidated by these fussy little divas, fret not. Just in case they don't show their pretty, dainty "feet" and you get stood up (laughing at my own corny pun), you can always turn them into Ambrosia or Eton Mess ... and no one would ever know. Been there, done that (many times over)! ;)


PS: Frankly, I am more fascinated by the shiny, smooth shells than the frilly feet.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pineapple "Rose" Tarts


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Just a quick note here. Following my previous post on Pineapple Tarts, a few readers left comments and emails asking if they could use the recipe to make "enclosed" tarts instead of open-faced ones. The answer is yes, and I made a few late last night, just to show you. Yay, me!

Once you have encased the pineapple jam with the dough, you can beautify the tarts to resemble tangerines, like I did here (a lot of work prepping the cloves, though) or you can crimp the dough to form rose petals. I learned about this easy and nifty trick, quite by chance, at the lovely e's joie.

All you need is a crimper, which you can get cheaply any baking supplies store.



With this crimper, you basically make a hexagon on the outside, and a triangle on the inside.

I know I did an awful job with the crimping - so untidy and uneven, and the petals are so badly formed!!! But you get the idea, yes? I also did not do any glazing because I felt it would cause uneven discolouration ... but mostly because I was sleep-starved and couldn't be bothered.

That's the only photo you're getting by the way, because the current rainy spell means low lighting conditions and whatever I take is going to turn out unsatisfactory anyway. So I'll save myself the frustration and do something more enjoyable ... like eat the tarts. :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pineapple Tarts (Again!)



Yes, we're coming to that time of the year already! In the blink of an eye, we will be celebrating Chinese New Year ... amazing how time just flies by, huh?

I started baking pineapple tarts over the weekend. I know it does seem a little early ... but considering the number of people I have to bake for, and the size of my puny oven, AND the fact that I can only bake on weekends ... I don't think I have much of a choice.

Again, I decided to be kind to myself and buy ready-made pineapple filling. This year, I used Sarawak honey pineapple jam from Ailin Bakery House* ($6.80 per kg). They are slightly costlier than the Red Man brand from Phoon Huat ($5.05 per kg), which I also bought for comparison. Ailin's version is wetter and has a sweet-sour taste. Phoon Huat's Redman is sweeter and stickier. Which do you prefer? I personally like the jam from Ailin better.
* Ailin Bakery House
845 Geylang Road
#01-48 Tanjong Katong Complex
Singapore 400845
Tel: 67432693


The tarts were always in danger of being eaten without my knowledge, until they were cooled, packed and sealed ... and placed somewhere HIGH up from prying hands.
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I will be baking for my children's teachers, ex-teachers, tutors, neighbours and a few close friends ... and of course, for my own family. One of my good friends, SY, had me in stitches when she related what she did with the tarts I baked for her last year.

She hid them in her office drawer, for fear of having to share with her co-workers. Every afternoon, she would stealthily bring out 3 tarts and slowly savour them with her coffee. I was so tickled I replenished her supply when she finished all her tarts. :)


These are for you, SY!
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I bought these round, flat containers from Phoon Huat ($0.80 each). They are a lot easier to pack the tarts in than those taller plastic tubs with red covers ... and what I like is, the tarts stay in position. After each layer, do remember to place a sheet of baking paper. This will prevent the flaky pastry (from the tarts above) from sticking to - and thereby "disfiguring" - the jam (of the tarts below).


Ready to be given away. These are for the teachers. :)

If you want a simple recipe with step-by-step instructions, take a look at the one I shared last year. My friend, Camemberu, made some lovely tarts using this recipe. :) Just remember to use real butter! One of my friends baked with Buttercup Luxury Spread thinking it was butter. It is not! Check the ingredients list: you should only see "cream" or at the very most, "cream and water".

OK, break's over. I've got to head back to the kitchen. ;) Laters!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mushroom Onion Quiche


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So, after the holiday euphoria, it's back to the daily grind. As usual, my days will be spent doing everything but accomplishing nothing. Take, for example, the unappealing task of sending and fetching the kids to and from classes, at various intervals of the day, with different schedules each day. Oh, how I loathe being left with odd pockets of time to do neither this nor that!

But that's being a stayhome mom for you. Your family is your work. :) I might groan and I might grumble, but when it comes to the crunch, I'll still choose to be that "professional" driver doing the boring school circuit in the unrelenting afternoon heat, nevermind the dreadful pigmentation I get in return. Ho ho.

This year, I have one child taking the PSLE (wish her luck), another child in K2 (P1 registration dilemma), and a third who's a Terrible Two (wish me luck). I have to admit, I am feeling a tad jittery, but well, I'll just take it one day at a time.

As my Dadday would have said, "Que sera sera."



All right then, end of monologue.

I wanted to share my first quiche of 2011. I love quiche because it offers so many meatless possibilities, and I'm happy to note that one of my most viewed posts is this Roasted Pumpkin Quiche. :) See? We all love quiche! *group hug*

This one I baked today is made with mushrooms and caramelised onions ... and readymade puff pastry! Which means, super fast and easy ... perfect for busy days.

Recipe
- 1 pastry sheet, storebought (you can also use shortcrust pastry)
- 150g mushrooms, sliced (I used shiitake but feel free to use a combination)
- 300g red onions, sliced thinly
- 1/4 tsp soft brown sugar (optional)
- 3 eggs
- 5 tbsp whipping cream
- Shredded cheese (optional, as much as you like)
- Some oil and butter
- Chopped parsley


Thaw the frozen pastry sheet briefly so that it becomes pliable. Layer it over a buttered baking tin or dish, then trim off the edges all around. Poke holes at the base using a fork. Line with crumpled baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice. Bake at 170C for about 10mins.


In a skillet, heat some oil and butter, and saute the onions with brown sugar. As the onions begin to brown, throw in the mushrooms and continue to saute until everything is soft and cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the pastry from the oven. Remove the crumpled baking paper as well as the baking beads or rice. Spread the mushroom/onion mixture in one layer.


Add some shredded cheese but this is optional. I used cheddar and mozzarella.


Beat the eggs and dairy whipping cream. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Pour over the mushrooms and onions, then sprinkle with parsley or any herb of your choice.


Bake at 170C for about 20 mins, or until the top and edges turn golden.


Allow the quiche to sit in the dish for 10mins before unmoulding and slicing.


Bon Appétit ... and wishing you happy days ahead, no matter how busy!
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mont Blanc Cake モンブラン


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Happy 2011, everyone! How have your holidays been? I hope you all had a great holiday season with family and friends. :) I certainly did! *hic*

This being my very first post for 2011, I wanted to make something special to herald in the new year. Well, here it is, the Mont Blanc that I have been meaning to make forever, but never did ... until now!

As you may well know, this cake - named after the tallest mountain in Western Europe - is hugely popular in Japan. So popular that you can find it virtually anywhere, even at the humble convenience store. Oh, I sure hope that by starting my blog year with a Mont Blanc, I will not only scale new heights but also return to Japan for more Mont Blancs! Haha!

Anyhow, I have never attempted this cake because of the (perceived) level of difficulty. But while doing Christmas shopping at Cold Storage, I saw cans of pureed chestnuts like this, and decided to Just Do It.



Perfect! I got hold of a can, with the intention of making a Mont Blanc for Christmas Eve dinner (it was Hubby's birthday too!). However, with my household being a democratic one, it was all (them) against one (me) ... and I ended up making a chocolate cake. Yawn.

But I promised myself that before the year was up, I would be eating my Mont Blanc no matter what! :) And so, on the final day of 2010, I finally did it. You'll be happy to know that it is actually quite easy to make ... as long as you have readymade chestnut puree on hand.

Recipe
(largely adapted from Marc's No Recipes - good and fuss-free! See also Sherie's version of the same recipe.)

(A) For sponge base
I used my Hot Milk Sponge Cake instead of a genoise. I like it because the texture is light but still firm enough to hold its shape under that mountain (literally!) of cream and puree. By all means, if you have your favourite sponge cake recipe, use it.


You should pour the batter into two pans (mine was 6" x 9" x 3") so that you get a flatter cake. But I baked the cake whole because my oven is too small.


I used a round cutter (2 1/2") to make rounds, and then halved them horizontally.

(B) For chestnut puree
- 15 oz can of pureed chestnut
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 vanilla bean*
* I used 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Slice the vanilla bean in half length wise and scrape the seeds into a small saucepan. Add the cream, sugar and whisk in the yolk. Heat over low heat, continually stirring until the mixture begins to thicken. Take the pan off the heat and allow the vanilla bean to steep while the mixture cools.

2. When the mixture is cool, put it in a food processor along with the pureed chestnuts. Blitz until smooth and creamy.* Put a spoonful of chestnut puree in the double mesh strainer over a bowl and press through using a spatula. Strain the rest of the chestnut puree, cover and set aside.
* I did not use a food processor. Instead, I handwhisked till as creamy as I could, and then put everything through a sieve (like pureeing baby food).


Tadah! Chestnut puree.

(C) For chestnut cream
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup chestnut puree

1. In the clean dry bowl of an electric mixer, add 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Using the whisk attachment, beat until the cream holds soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat until the sugar is incorporated. Add 1/3 cup of the strained chestnut puree and mix until the cream holds firm peaks being careful not to over mix.

Note: Now, believe me when I say rum and chestnut cream are a match made in heaven. I added 1 tsp rum into the chestnut cream and the taste was elevated to a whole new level!


Must. Add. Rum!


Chestnut cream that was finger lickin' good. This stuff is gold.

Now, you can start putting all three components into a Mont Blanc!


Optional: If you feel that the sponge base is too dry, you can brush on a simple sugar solution, ie, boil equal parts water to sugar till everything dissolves, and then leave to cool (I also added a splash of rum to it for oopmh). Then brush the sugar solution onto the sponge before piping the cream. Pipe a generous dollop of chestnut cream in the centre.


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Next, pipe the chestnut puree. There are piping tips you can buy to produce this spaghetti effect, but don't fret if you don't have one. I cut a hole in my piping bag and piped directly without any tip. You can pipe into a circular mound or into 'grids', as seen above. My Mont Blancs can hardly be described as beautiful, but they will do for a maiden attempt. :P Most of the time, Mont Blancs are topped with a chestnut that has been split in half ... or you can dust some icing sugar on, to give it that snow capped look. I didn't bother because I was too tired from all that insane piping.


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Aside, my sister bought me a Mont Blanc as a birthday cake some years back, and I instantly fell in love with the ambrosial, velvety chestnut goodness. Now, I am just thrilled that I can finally make it myself ... and I know it will only get better. :) I hope you'll like this lovely cake as much as I adore it.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!