Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marble Cake


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Marble cake was my favourite cake growing up. It had the best of both worlds - butter and chocolate - with intriguing swirls thrown in. Whenever I visited a confectionery, the first cake I would always reach for would be a marble cake.

Of course, over the years, I grew up, and so did Singapore. And our tastes evolved. Now, at the mention of "tea", we reach for macarons, or warm chocolate tarts, or choux puffs. Yet, once in a while, it's nice to go back to simple pleasures. This marble cake was baked on a whim, when I was deliberating what to make for tea. Why not share a slice of my childhood with my children, literally? And so I did.

While the young ones had no issues with the cake, I have to admit ... the texture was not really my cuppa tea. This, despite the fact that it received an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars from 111 reviewers. Ooops!

It only dawned upon me after a few bites, that I should have tried a recipe where the yolks and whites were beaten separately and then re-combined. The crumbs would have been finer and tighter ... something I tend to favour in cakes.

Gosh, what has 2 years of baking done to me? I would have had no complaints with this just a year ago! Now I am actually fussing over crumb size. Unbelievable! :P

Recipe
(from BBC Good Food)

- 225g butter , softened
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 225g self-raising flour
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder

1. Heat oven to 180C/gas 160C/gas 4. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper. If you want to make life easy, simply put all the ingredients (except the cocoa powder) into a food processor and whizz for 1-2 mins until smooth. If you prefer to mix by hand, beat the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold through the flour, milk and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

2. Divide the mixture between 2 bowls. Stir the cocoa powder into the mixture in one of the bowls. Take 2 spoons and use them to dollop the chocolate and vanilla cake mixes into the tin alternately. When all the mixture has been used up (and if young kids are doing this, you'll need to ensure the base of the tin is fairly evenly covered), tap the bottom on your work surface to ensure that there aren't any air bubbles. Take a skewer and swirl it around the mixture in the tin a few times to create a marbled effect.

3. Bake the cake for 45-55 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

PS: My friend Ellena from Cuisine Paradise was prompted to bake this cake after I posted. Take a look at her mini cakes here. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tomato Pasta Sauce (With Pumpkin)

A few days ago, I tweeted that I had a very crappy lunch at a family chain restaurant. I hadn't eaten there in ages, and that meal reminded me why. The fish was badly prepared - panfried for the purpose of merely cooking, and being neither browned nor crisp around the edges. The oil they used had obviously been frying something else prior. The fusilli that came with it was flavourless and hardened. The peach cake tasted neither peachy nor cakey. Worse, it was served with generous lashings of commercially-made, medicinal-tasting fruit puree.

"Just like airplane food," my daughter remarked. I disagree - Singapore Airlines serves way better food.

I know we are never going back again. EVER.

I also realised something else: I seldom eat bad food, and when I do, it shocks my system. Most of the time, I eat at home. Simple fare, no doubt, but fresh and unprocessed. And that alone, makes all the difference. When I do eat food outside of home, I usually go to my favourite hawker stalls where I know I will be assured of flavourful streetfood, or at quality (not necessarily expensive) restaurants.

But yes. Sometimes, I foolishly veer off the familiar path and walk straight into hell's kitchen.

I am honestly perplexed how some eateries refuse to make the effort to serve real food. If we - untrained home cooks - can whip up decent meals in our own kitchens, why can't these places - manned by trained chefs, mind you - do better? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
(Actually, I already know the answer: because there are many people out there who can't tell good from bad nosh. Or who choose ambiance over food.)

All right then, end of rant. I just needed to get that out before I move on to today's recipe.


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Now, usually when I cook tomato-based pastas, I would rely on this recipe. It's a great recipe, as long as the tomatoes used are very ripe and sweet. If they aren't, you'd get a rather tart sauce which you'd then have to add some sugar to take the edge off the sharpness.

BUT, today's version knocks the socks off every other Tomato Pasta Sauce I have ever made! And the secret ingredient? Pumpkin!

I bought a wedge of pumpkin at the market, just so that I wouldn't have to continue listening to the lady boss go on and on about the benefits of this vegetable. When I got home, I suddenly had the idea of incorporating it into tomato puree for a pasta sauce. And it turned out so amazingly smooth, sweet and velvety, I knew I had hit the jackpot with this one.

Here are the ingredients you need (enough for 2 servings of pasta):
- 300g pumpkin (more or less won't hurt), skinned and cut into large chunks and steamed till fork tender
- 200g passata (again, more or less won't hurt)
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 white onion, diced very finely
- 1 clove garlic, minced very finely
- Some extra virgin olive oil


Ignore my youngest. He is just doing what he does best - being effortlessly cute. ^.^ (And blocking my sunlight!)

1. Puree the steamed pumpkin using a wire sieve. Leave aside. In the meantime, heat up a shallow pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and saute the onions and garlic until the onions have softened but not browned.


I have been using this brand of passata for years because I like that they use only Italian tomatoes which are free from skin and seeds, and contain nothing else but tomatoes and salt. I usually get mine from NTUC or Giant.

2. Bring out your passata and add it to the onions/garlic. I used about half the bottle (about 200g). Now, add in the pumpkin puree and stir to mix well. Next, add salt. Let the sauce bubble and simmer for about a minute. If the sauce is too viscous, thin it out with some water.


Your sauce is ready! BTW, like my new tasting spoon? :)

You will notice that the consistency is creamy and velvety, and adheres really well to the pasta strands. And the natural sweetness which balances the tartness of the passata? Perfect. All thanks to the humble pumpkin. :) It's the thickening and sweetening agent ... and one that is very good for you. You can use this sauce for pasta or lasgana or as a base for other dishes.


My sweet friend Monique obviously expects big things from me. ;) Merçi again, Nana! I am a chef in my own kitchen, I am. :) But first, I have to keep this beautiful tasting spoon away from little hands.


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I cooked my pasta the same time I was sautéing the onions, and it was ready when the sauce was simmering. I drained the pasta, added it to the sauce in the pan, and then tossed to mix well before transferring to a serving plate. Top it off with a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese and parsley before serving.

I hope you'll all try making this. I am mighty proud of this sauce because it really tastes awesome and because I can now make my children eat more pumpkin without them even knowing ... muahahahaha! :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fish En Croute


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This was the result of getting bored my with own repertoire of dishes. I had the snapper fillet already defrosted, and was wondering if I should go the panfry + sauce route. But I just wanted something different, you know? So I looked through the larder and fridge for ingredients I might need to use up quickly, and caught sight of my puff pastry sheets, barely visible under a mountain of other food. Obviously, we haven't been in touch for a while.

And then it struck me - En Croute! I have always wanted to try this, but each time, I would conveniently go for the panfry route ... and the fish would be cooked ... and eaten ... and then I would suddenly remember. En Croute! Why didn't I make that?!

So the days became weeks and weeks became months. And the En Croute never reached my dining table. Until today. ;)

The great thing about an En Croute is that the fish kept is moist and tender inside the pastry casing, so there's hardly any chance of it drying out. Better yet, there's no greasy clean up - just wrap the marinated fillet in the pastry and bake! That alone gets my thumbs up.

Recipe
(serves 2)
- 1 fish fillet, about 200 to 250g (if you are using frozen ones, allow time to thaw) - I used cream snapper
- 1/2 wedge of lemon
- Large pinch of salt
- Large pinch of black pepper
- Frozen garden vegetables like peas, carrots and corn, thawed, rinsed and drained
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg, beaten

1. Briefly rinse fish fillet and pat dry with paper towels. In a shallow dish, marinate the fish with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put aside for about 10 to 20 mins (but not over 1 hour, as the acidic lemon juice will render the fish tough and "overcooked").

2. Preheat your oven to 200°C.

3. Place thawed puff pastry on a plastic sheet (I did not roll it out any thinner, but next time, I will ... just a bit thinner would have been nicer). Arrange the garden vegetables in a rectangle, then top with the fillet.

4. Carefully roll up into a parcel. I have seen different ways of doing this - some use 2 sheets (top & bottom), some roll it all up in 1 sheet. Some like to show the seams (and decorate it with fork marks), some tuck them under. I rolled it up like I would a spring roll, placed it seamside down, and trimmed off the excess. LOL. As long as the edges overlap and the filling doesn't fall out, it's good enough. Don't overlap too much or you will get a thick pastry that won't bake through.

5. Carefully transfer the Snapper En Croute on a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper. Brush the top with egg wash.

6. Using the excess puff pastry dough, cut long strips and arrange them in a criss-cross fashion on top of the En Croute. Make small slashes along these strips so that they are not visible (these slashes will allow the steam to escape while cooking). Brush with a little more egg wash.

7. Bake for about 20 mins until the top is golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool on a rack for about 10 mins before serving. You can serve it along with sauces - lemon butter or honey-mustard would be nice - but on its own, it is already very delicious. Bon Appétit!


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Raspberry Sorbet (Without A Machine)


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It was 33°C and I was photographing this Raspberry Sorbet instead of eating it. Crazy, right? But only for a minute, because from my past experience with granita (see here and here), I knew the hot weather would turn quickly everything into a liquid mess. So I did the smart thing and took only 2 shots before calling it a wrap. ;) After all, people visit food blogs for the recipes, not the photos. Right? Right?

Well, here's the recipe - nothing more than fruit, water and sugar ... mixed and then frozen into a delicious slush. It's oh-so-refreshing in this unbearable heat, and the wiser option to indulge in - instead of ice-cream - because you do want to look good in those flirty summer dresses.

Recipe
(makes 2-3 serves)
- 1 punnet raspberries (fresh or frozen), 170g, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup white sugar (depends how sweet you like it to be)
- Squeeze of lemon or lime juice

1. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for a few of minutes till a thin syrup forms. Allow to cool.


2. Blitz the raspberries and lemon juice in a food processor until it turns into a fine puree.


3. Add the cooled syrup to the raspberry puree and stir to combine. Run the mixture through a wire mesh to remove the seeds.

4. Churn in an ice-cream machine, or place in shallow tray in the freezer, stirring the sorbet by hand every 30mins for the first two hours to prevent crystallisation. I don't have an ice-cream machine, so I stirred by hand. After that, I transferred the sorbet into a deeper loaf tin (see my first photo), covered it with foil, and allowed it to freeze overnight. I was afraid my sorbet would harden and turn popsicle-like if I left it in the shallow tray. As you can see, that didn't happen and I got the soft, slushy consistency I wanted.


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Leek & Mushroom Pasta

Leeks are aplenty during Chinese New Year, and I certainly got my share of them. I absolutely love cooking with leeks as an aromatic - to flavour a soup, or a fried rice, or a pasta. Like this one:


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It's as lazy a dish as it can get. Just fresh ingredients and a light touch of seasoning. Nothing fancy, no rocket science ... which is perfectly fine when you are hungry and want hot food pronto.

Recipe
(serves 1 hungry ME)

- 3 baby leeks, white part only, sliced thin
- 5 or 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms (caps), sliced thick
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
- 1 knob unsalted butter
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of coarse black pepper
- Pinch of salt to taste
- 1 serving of pasta (I used spinach fettuccine)
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Chilli flakes (optional but recommended)
- Basil leaves for garnishing (optional)


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1. Cook pasta as per package instructions (make sure you salt the water generously). In the meantime, heat a skillet and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil. Add a knob of butter.

2. When the butter has melted into the oil, add the leeks. Cook over a gentle heat until the leeks has softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue cooking but do not let the garlic brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Drain the pasta when it is done, saving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of leeks and mushrooms. Toss to combine. Add splashes of the pasta cooking water if it's too dry. Add another pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle a little more olive oil before dishing up.

4. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and chilli flakes, and garnish with basil leaves. Take photos before eating.


Like many of my fellow bloggers, I am the cook, stylist, hand model and photographer behind every photograph. Amazing how blogging hones your multitasking skills, eh? I might just grow an extra arm one day.
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PS: I don't celebrate it, but if you do, Happy Valentine's Day! Want chocolate? You've come to the right place! I've got plenty. :) Look under my recipe index. You're bound to find something you'd like.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Strawberry Tarts

I had friends come over for tea during the Chinese New Year weekend and I was very clear what I was going to make - anything but CNY goodies! Since I had a batch of Pierre Hermé's Sweet Tart Dough leftover from making Warm Chocolate & Raspberry Tarts, I decided to use what I already had on hand.

This time though, I made Strawberry Tarts, given the abundance in my fridge - 4 punnets of Korean strawberries (sitting next to 3 punnets of blueberries and 3 punnets of raspberries)! Of course, any fruit works, but there's just something about the sweet summer appeal of strawberries.

Making these tarts is actually a breeze, because you can pre-bake the tart shells and cook the crème pâtissière a day earlier, and simply assemble the tarts before your guests arrive. If you want to make something fuss-free for Valentine's Day, you might want to consider these.

Here's how they turned out:


ONE photo - that's all I managed, right at the table. I posted this up on Twitter just before my friends arrived, and immediately received a number of self-invitations to tea. ;)
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The tarts look adorable, don't they? :) I also made Japanese Cheesecake, seeing how my guests are fans of all things Japanese. I beat the egg whites on the lowest speed throughout, and got a texture that was so fine, it was practically "poreless" and sponge foam-like. I was really happy with that. A lot of readers have asked me how my cheesecakes stay tall and wrinkle-free. Honestly, I don't know! They always come out tall, never slouch and never crease. I sound like a Tiger Mom, don't I? Nothing but perfection, or else, I'll reject you!


And here's a close up of the Strawberry Tarts. I made these a second time because my family couldn't get enough. There's nothing quite like making them from scratch. Fresh just tastes better!
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For the Sweet Tart Dough
(recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, written by Dorie Greenspan)

NOTE:
- Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking;
- You are encouraged to make the full quantity because lessening the measurements may not yield the best results.
- Unused dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Frozen disks of dough take about 45 minutes to an hour at average room temperature to reach a good rolling-out consistency. Baked crusts can be kept uncovered at room temperature for about 8 hours.


- 2 1/2 sticks (10ozs; 285g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (150g) icing sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup (lightly packed) (3 1/4ozs; 100g) finely ground almond powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 3 1/2 cups (490g) all-purpose flour

To make the dough in a mixer:
Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and, still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may look curdled – that’s alright. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough – a matter of seconds. Don’t overdo it.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. (Of course you can press the dough into one large disk and cut off as much as you need at the time that you need it.) Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.)

To prepare for baking:
1. Pinch balls of dough and press them into each tart mould using your thumb. Make sure you press more around the bottom rims where dough tends to gather. I like to my tart shells thin and delicate. Once you have pressed all the dough into your tart moulds, place them back into the fridge for another 15 minutes before baking.

2. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice before baking.*
* Note from The Little Teochew: I did not blind bake my mini tart shells and they turned out OK.

3. Fully bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until they turn golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool. These can keep at room temperature for 8 hours.


For the Crème Pâtissière
(recipe largely adapted from Corner Cafe)

NOTE:
- For step-by-step photos, click here.


- 1 cup milk (236ml)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (55g)
- 1/8 tsp vanilla beans or extract
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 pinch salt (only if not adding butter, or using unsalted butter)
- 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, for additional shine and firmness (I always add unsalted butter)

1. Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk (60ml), sugar and vanilla beans. Mix in cornflour and salt (if using).

2. Bring the remaining milk to a scald* in a saucepan. Pour the hot milk in small stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk as you pour (very important). Once incorporated, pour everything back into the saucepan.
* To scald is to heat to just below the boiling point.

3. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and firms up. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.

4. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and plunge the bottom of the bowl into another larger bowl of iced-water to cool, give it a whisk occasionally.

- I just continued whisking in the same saucepan until it cooled down.


5. Once it reaches room temperature, scoop the crème pâtissière into a piping bag (twist the open end to seal up the custard) or into a ketchup bottle. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Assembling the tarts
1. Hull and half the strawberries. Set aside.

2. Pipe the crème pâtissière into tart shells, into a rounded mound. This will provide the fruits with some support to stand at an angle.

3. Place the strawberry halves all around.

4. Close gaps with blueberries (optional).

5. Glaze the fruits (not the tart rims). Most people use jam for this. Scoop some jam out and thin it slightly with warm water, then gently brush over the fruits. I didn't have to do that because some liquid/syrup had collected at the bottom of my bottle of strawberry jam - and I simply used that for the glaze.

6. I used strawberry jam, which intensified the flavour of the fresh strawberries. But if you are using other fruits, apricot jam is usually preferred because it is clear and does not mask the true colours of the fruits. You don't need a lot of jam ... as long as the fruits look shiny, it's mission accomplished!

7. Chill the tarts (in a covered container) in the fridge till it is time to serve. The colder, the better. :) These are best eaten fresh. Do not keep them for more than 24 hours.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

(Pierre Hermé) Warm Chocolate & Raspberry Tart

Love is in the air! Yup, Valentine's Day is drawing near, and you're going to be seeing a lot of chocolate in blogworld. I'm jumping in too! Here's my take - Warm Chocolate & Raspberry Tart by Pierre Hermé.


From the book Chocolate Desserts.

"Beware this chocolate and raspberry tart - it's a gustatory seductress. It has a beckoning look, but it's the flavours and textures that get you. The ganache filling is warm, only just set, and almost like custard, soft and rich and silken and smooth. Baked, even just briefly as they are here, the berries have a gentle sweetness and an even more distinctive flavour, as though the warmth of the oven ripened them to perfection. The sweet almond crust that cradles the filling offers a little butteryness and a touch of crunch, a nice counterpoint to the creamy filling."
- Dorie Greenspan, author of Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

However, me being The Little Teochew, I made everything little. :)


Individual tartlets!
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Rest assured that although this recipe looks complicated and lengthy, these tartlets are really quite straightforward to make. I have to say, my experience using Pierre Hermé's recipes - this, and previously, his Chocolate & Lemon Madeleines - have been nothing but favourable. The measurements were spot-on, the instructions were precise ... very unlike some famous egg tart recipe. Ahem.

So, these photos were taken when winter came to Singapore. No kidding. We had gusty winds and continuous rain for days, and at times, I almost thought it would snow! Temperatures at night were hovering around 22-24°C. How's that for tropical weather?! But I loved every minute of it.

The first time I made this tart (and I made one large one just in like the first pic), I had no photos to show because there was hardly any daylight. But it was such a hit - the chocolate for my children, the sublime tart crust for me - I made it again ... and thankfully, on a day when we had a short interval of sunlight. The rays were barely enough to illuminate these pretty little ones, but I got my shots to share with you, and for that, I am really thankful. :)

Recipe
(From Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, written by Dorie Greenspan)

For the Sweet Tart Dough
(Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking)
- 2 1/2 sticks (10ozs; 285g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (150g) icing sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup (lightly packed) (3 1/4ozs; 100g) finely ground almond powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 3 1/2 cups (490g) all-purpose flour

Note: You are encouraged to make the full quantity because lessening the measurements may not yield the best results.

To make the dough in a mixer:
Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and, still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may look curdled – that’s alright. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough – a matter of seconds. Don’t overdo it.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. (Of course you can press the dough into one large disk and cut off as much as you need at the time that you need it.) Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.)

To roll and bake:
1. For each tart, place a buttered tart ring on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep close at hand. Work with one piece of dough at a time; keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator.

2. Working on a lightly floured surface (marble is ideal), roll the dough to a thickness of between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (2 and 4mm), lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and dough are amply floured at all times. (Because this dough is so rich, it can be difficult to roll, but a well-floured surface makes the job easier. If you are a novice at rolling, you might find it easier to tape a large piece of plastic wrap to the counter and to roll the dough between that and another piece of plastic. If you do this, make sure to lift the top sheet of plastic wrap from time to time so that it doesn't crease and get rolled into the dough.) Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, then run your rolling pin across the top of the ring to cut off the excess. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don’t worry – patch the cracks with scraps (moisten the edges with water to "glue" them in place) and just make certain not to stretch the dough that’s in the pan. (What you stretch now will shrink later). Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork (unless the tart will be filled with a runny custard or other loose filling) and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

3. When you are ready to bake the crust(s), preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice.*
* Note from The Little Teochew: I did not blind bake my mini tart shells and they turned out OK.

4. Bake the crust for 18 to 20 minutes, just until it is very lightly coloured. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

Keeping: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Frozen disks of dough take about 45 minutes to an hour at average room temperature to reach a good rolling-out consistency. Baked crusts can be kept uncovered at room temperature for about 8 hours.



Tip from The Little Teochew: I'm all for the easy way out, so instead of attempting to roll out this extremely sticky, buttery dough, I used my mini tart moulds and pressed balls of dough into shape with my thumb. It's a lot more manageable and the best thing for me, is that I could get really thin, delicate tart shells which I might otherwise have been unable to achieve with rolling (the dough will likely break when lifted). Make sure you press around the bottom rims where dough tends to gather. Once you are done, send all the tart moulds back to the fridge to chill for another 15mins before baking. With this method, there is no need for any floured marble surface or rolling out, which in turn means minimal handling of the dough (any dough that is overworked will yield a tough and hard crust). This also cuts down the baking time. The tart shells were done in what? 10 to 15 minutes? And once they are baked through, they literally slide out of the tart moulds without any resistance. Yup, you're welcome. :)

Now that you have your tart crust, you can start making the chocolate ganache.

For the filling:
- Get your tart shell(s) baked and cooled, and on standby
- 1/2 cup (55g) red raspberries
- 5ozs (145g) very good quality bittersweet chocolate. preferably Valrhona Noir Gastronomie, finely chopped (my chocolate of choice is always, always Valrhona Equatoriale 55%)
- 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 large egg, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
- 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
- 2 tbsps sugar

1. Centre the rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. Fill the tart crust with the raspberries.

3. Melt the chocolate and the butter in separate bowls either over – but not touching – simmering water or in the microwave. Allow them to cool until they feel only just warm to the touch (104°F [60°C]), as measured on an instant-read thermometer, is perfect).

4. Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the egg into the chocolate, stirring gently in ever-widening circles and taking care not to agitate the mixture – you don’t want to beat air into the ganache. Little by little, stir in the egg yolks, then the sugar. Finally, still working gently, stir in the warm melted butter. Pour the ganache over the raspberries in the prebaked tart shell(s).

5. Bake the batter for 11 minutes (less if you are making mini tarts) – that should be just enough time to turn the top of the tart dull, like the top of a cake. The center of the tart will shimmy if jiggled – that’s just what it’s supposed to do. Remove the tart from the oven, slide it onto a rack, and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.


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To serve:
- 1/4 cup (25g) red raspberries
- Vanilla Crème Anglaise (optional)

Scatter the fresh red raspberries over the top of the tart and, if you’d like, serve with some crème anglaise.

Keeping: The crust can be made ahead, but the tart should be assembled as soon as the ganache is made. And while the tart is meant to be eaten soon after it comes from the oven, it can be kept overnight in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature before being eaten the next day. The filling will be firmer and denser, but still delicious.


You don't have to dig deep to find raspberries buried beneath that chocolatey goodness. Give these tarts a try?
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Begedil Or Bergedil?


I grew up calling them Begedil. But my Indonesian helper says it's Bergedil. What do you call them?
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The other day, I tweeted that "making bergedils is a lot easier than styling or photographing them". It was right after I had arranged and re-arranged these unphotogenic potato patties on 3 different plates. Dull, greasy food just makes for challenging photography, doesn't it? Give me pretty desserts any day!

I know it looks jarring to have a non-Chinese New Year dish thrust onto the (virtual) table, especially when we are all still swimming in pineapple tarts and sugee cookies but that's precisely my point. Let's take a break from CNY goodies for a while and look at other food!

Now, this is not the first time I have blogged about begedils/bergedils. However, a reader recently wrote to me, asking why her potato patties could not hold their shape while frying, and which instead, "melted" into the oil. Coincidentally, since I made this dish, I thought I'd share some tips on how to get the perfect begedil/bergedil:

1. Use potatoes are that not too floury, otherwise you will have a tough time trying to shape them. And they are not going to make tasty patties either. Imagine biting into mush. Hmmm, not very nice.

2. When mashing your potatoes, mash only about 70%. Leave the other 30% in rough chunks. This helps the patties hold their shape, and provides some 'bite'.

3. I find that pre-fried potatoes (as opposed to pre-steamed or pre-boiled) gives the best texture.

Eating begedils/bergedils is an occasional indulgence (or at least, it should be). This is certainly not diet food, and if you are squeamish about oil and carbs, erm, you can stop reading at this point ... though bear in mind that your "healthy" zucchini chocolate bread or "healthy" carrot cake (with cream cheese frosting) aren't exactly angels either! ;)

Recipe
- 700g peeled potatoes (use slightly firmer ones), cut into small pieces
- 150g fry shallots (sliced)
- 3 to 4 stalks spring onions, chopped
- Pinches of salt and white pepper to taste
- 1 beaten egg


My favourite all-purpose potato - the Indonesian Brastagi.


(Left) Spring onions: use the green parts. (Right) Shallots: use plenty.


(Top left) Fry shallots in oil till crisp and golden. Drain and spread them out to cool.

(Top right) Using the same shallot oil, fry the potatoes. You can cut them into slices, chunks, wedges, doesn't matter. They are going to be mashed up, anyway.

(Bottom right) Drain the potatoes and then mash. Leave about 30% of the potatoes very roughly mashed, ie, still chunky. This gives the patties a nice bite, and also helps hold their shapes better. Mix in the shallots, spring onions, salt and pepper. Taste test at this stage, but resist the urge to eat them all. Mmmm ...

(Bottom right) Shape the potatoes into palm sized patties, dip in beaten egg and fry. You need to shallow fry them, so you can't hold back on the oil. The patties should be semi-submerged in oil.
Hello? Anyone still here?


Drain the begedils/bergedils of excess oil before serving. You can make these a day ahead and keep them chilled in the fridge, and then reheated again in a toaster ovenette. But seriously, with that incredible aroma, you'd want to start eating when they are straight off the pan.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy New Year 新年快乐



As I type, my big pot of vegetarian chap chye (mixed braised vegetables) has just finished simmering. It's my centrepiece dish every year, and I thought I'd dish out some to show you. :) As my sister said the other day, "I don't care what else you cook, I just want to eat your vegetarian chap chye!!" Now that the most important dish is done, I can take a short breather. ;)



But before I head back to the kitchen, I want to take this chance to send early greetings to all who celebrate the Chinese New Year.

祝大家身体健康, 万事如意! 恭喜发财!
May the Year of the Rabbit bring you good health, happiness and prosperity!

Have a great, great year ahead, everyone! :)