Sunday, 31 August 2008

Almost disastrous Pâte à Choux but Chocolate Eclairs all the same!



It's Daring Bakers time again and blogs all over the world are showcasing the same challenge! Incidentally the 31st of August is also Malaysia's Independence Day - our 51st Hari Merdeka!

Pâte à Choux or Choux Pastry is not something to sneeze at. I'm hoping you get the pun on à Choux, or do I have to spell it out - Ah Choo! Get it?? The Lovely Wife keeps telling me I'm not very punny (pun intended here!) but I don't listen. You know, years ago, before we were married and even in the first few years (or maybe months, or was it weeks?) of marriage, she used to laugh at all my jokes and my quick wit. Now she just rolls her eyes skyward as if in silent prayer. Funny though that everyone else still thinks I'm funny. Hilarious even. She says that she is used to my humour and so it kind of gets stale. She also questions that maybe I'm not funny anymore. As if! As I said, everyone else still thinks I'm a riot! But as usual, I digress. Not really though...



You see, this month's challenge is hosted by my dear friend Meeta over at Whats for Lunch Honey and Tony Tahhan. Somehow, I knew that Meeta would pick something with Chocolate in it and I wasn't far wrong. She picked Chocolate Eclairs. Now I've made eclairs before and I've also made cream puffs so I wasn't really fazed by the challenge. In fact, that cocky, arrogant rooster in me kind of lifted its haughty little nose (beak?) toward the direction of Germany (where Meeta is) and sneered and snickered. But there was nothing funny in the end because my Choux Pastry almost didn't turn out.

I had to make my pastry TWICE! The first time, the dough kind of separated while I was cooking it. Dont ask me how but it separated and was a little oily. I ignored that and beat it with the eggs and then piped it out. It started to rise in the oven and I followed the instructions to a tee including leaving the door open with a wooden spoon. The dough seemed to rise nicely but as soon as I took it out, it started to collapse and became kind of soggy. It was obviously undercooked. In retrospect, I think I the dough separated becuase I didnt measure the flour properly and that was due to nothing but my sheer arrogance.

So... I did some research on the web and found that what made the dough rise was basically the water content in the pastry turning into steam. Aaaah! Perhaps the reason my previous eclairs turned out was because the recipe was slightly different. I also learnt that you needed an extra hot oven for Choux Pastry.

On the second try, my dough came together very nicely and I piped it out as well as spooned some on to the tray to make puffs.


This time, I left the pastry in the oven a little longer and left out the part about leaving the door open ajar. This time the Choux Pastry rose wonderfully and was nice and brown on top. There was still a slight problem though, some of the bottoms had kind of opened up - meaning there were some holes in the bottoms. As for the puffs, most of them puffed up really, really nicely but some sunk a little after taking them out of the oven. I seriously think that if I make this again, I will need to bake them longer. I would imagine the type of flour may cause a difference. Maybe the size of the eggs too.

Anyway, the Chocolate Pastry Cream was a DREAM! I've made pastry cream before but this came together very, very nicely and oh so delicious with the chocolate in it!

It was so difficult not to scoop it up straight away and eat the whole lot!

Once I split the eclairs and assembled the Eclairs and Puffs with the chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze, they started to look like the real deal. Now came the taste test.



I wont go too much into how the eclairs tasted other than to say that they were a HIT! The kids and the Lovely Wife had an eclair each BEFORE dinner and they absolutely LOVED them. They wanted more but I insisted that they needed to have dinner first. Dinner that night was eaten quicker than you could say Chocolate Eclairs simply because the kids couldnt wait to dig into more of them. The next morning, before going to church, the kids had an eclair each for breakfast and then finished off the remainder on their return!

As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this is the proof of how much the kids enjoyed the eclairs!

Digging in before Dinner and while I was still trying to get the perfect shots of my eclairs...that's part of the reason why I couldn't get nicer shots - the family was tired of me snapping away!



Have you ever seen such a stuffed, chocolate smeared face??



My son was one happy boy!


So, even though I wasn't completely satisfied with how the Choux Pastry turned out, I have to admit that part of the reason I wasn't satisfied is because I have raised my own standards after being a Daring Baker for a year. In fact, recalling the eclairs I made previously, I think these were by far better! So I guess being a Daring Baker means I'm not allowed to be mediocre any longer!!!

What really matters though is that they were still good enough for my family to thoroughly enjoy the eclairs. I too must admit that the Choc Eclairs were simply delicious! Thanks Meeta for a great challenge and if anyone had and similar experience as I did or any tips on how I can improve on the Choux Pastry, that would be greatly appreciated.

This is the recipe as provided:

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:

- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:
1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the
boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:
1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

[bNotes:[/b]
1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)


• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10-15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Baby French Beans with Belacan



I posted an earlier post about Kangkung Belacan where I mentioned that many types of vegetables can be cooked using the same recipe. Vegetables stir fried with Sambal Belacan is a typical Malaysian dish and the only variation is how spicy you make it. Some people like a lot of Sambal flavour while others prefer just a slight falvouring of it.

I love any vegetable that is stir fried with Sambal Belacan. The Lovely Wife, knowing my penchant for Sambal Belacan made this dish. She 'overloaded' on the sambal belacan so the dish was extra spicy - but there is never anything wrong with that!





I'm not going to repeat the whole recipe as it can be found in the Kangkung Belacan post but suffice to say, as I mentione earlier, its all a matter of taste. Sautee some onion, add in the Sambal Belacan and cook well. Add in a little dried shrimp that has been pounded in a mortar


and then stir in the vegetables and stir fry quickly. Dont overcook it as you want the vegetables to still be crunchy!


This is delicious eaten with rice as the sambal coats the rice and the rice takes on the flavour of the sambal belacan.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Citrus Chicken and Oats Symphony in D Major



It's Royal Foodie Joust time again! For those of you that don't know what the RFJ is, all I can say is... WHAT?!!! The Royal Food Joust has been around for more than a year now and is one of the great food events in the blogosphere. The brainchild of Jenn, the Leftover Queen, the Joust is a monthly event where three ingredients are chosen by the previous months winner. You then need to make something using ALL three of the said ingredients. You can add as many ingredients as you wish, but all three ingredients provided Must be used.
This months ingredients were chosen by Kittie with Kittens in her Kitchen and her choice of ingredients was:

Whole Grains (or at least they have to be whole at the start of the recipe!)
Ginger (in any form)
Citrus (any, in any form!)

Quite a challenge if you ask me!


The Whole Grains part had me stumped for a while since Kittie had specified that you had to use Whole Grains and not a by product like wholegrain flour or wholegrain bread. Hmm.. Tough one. Then, a quick check on the internet showed that Corn was a whole grain as was Oats and also Rice. However, Rice would have to be brown rice or wild rice. I was deeply troubled by this joust!

Then I got inspired by a memory of Buttered Prawns with Nestum. (Nestum is a kind of cereal made by Nestle for those of you that don't know what it is).

I decided to try and do something like that but use Chicken instead and flavour the chicken with Ginger and Lemon. Then, as I got more excited about how this sounded, I decided to throw in some mandarin oranges as well for added citrus! This is what I did.



Citrus Chicken and Oat Concerto in D Major

Ingredients
1/4 cup oats
500gm chicken breast or fillet
2 slices wholemeal bread
1 can peeled mandarin oranges - drained
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp honey
2 red chillis
handful curry leaves
2 inches ginger
1 large onion
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn flour


Method
Pound/grind one inch of the ginger and set aside. Cut the chicken into strips. Season with the corn flour, a little salt and pepper, sesame oil and ground ginger. Leave to marinate. Meanwhile, process the bread till you get breadcrumbs. Add in the oats and pulse till the oats are slightly fine. Heat some oil and fry the breadcrumbs and oats till crispy. Season with a little pepper and salt. Set aside.
Chop the onion and slice the remaining ginger into thin strips. Sautee together with the oregano in a little oil until the onion is tender. Add in the chicken and cook well till nicely browned. Mix the honey with lemon juice and add into the chicken, allow to simmer. Slice the red Chilli into thin strips and add to the chicken, giving it a good stir.
In another pan, quickly fry the Curry leaves until fragrant and crispy. Add the curry leaves, crispy oats and oranges to the chicken and give it a quick mix to combine.



I served this with some of my Spicy Aglio Olio Pasta which is simply Pasta stirred in Olive Oil, Garlic and Chilli Flakes. This time I used Tri Colore Fussili for some added colour. I reckon though that this would would have been just as delicious served with Rice or even on its own. The Lovely Wife was extremely pleased with this dish and declared it her favourite Royal Foodie Joust entry! Both the kids thought it was a lovely dish too and my son wolfed down his portion very very quickly.




Thanks Kittie for spurring me on to create this dish as I think it is definitely something very tasty and special - I mean, if the kids and the Lovely Wife liked it, that makes me a winner already!!

Since this dish was served with Pasta, I'm also entering this into the Presto Pasta Nights hosted by my friend Ruth at Once Upon A Feast



And whats with the name? Well,a symphony has as one of its definitions "anything characterized by a harmonious combination of elements". Since the flavours of Lemon and Orange together with Oats and Chicken produce a lovely combination, there you have your Symphony. And since I made it, and my first name starts with D, there you have the reason for D Major!

If you don't appreciate my creative naming or think that it's even a little funny, just imagine what the Lovely Wife has to put up with most of the time...


Friday, 22 August 2008

Coleslaw


Just something very simple this time around - Coleslaw! I grew up only knowing the coleslaw at Kentucky Fried Chicken. To me, that was what coleslaw was. But how wrong I was! When I grew up, (or maybe I should say became a little older because I don't think I've ever really grown up!!) I realised that coleslaw could be so, so much tastier and nothing quite beats home made slaw!

The Lovely Wife made this some time ago, as she IS after all the Salad Queen in our house. This version has sliced apples in it too for a whole lot more flavour. Theres no real recipe to this as its pretty much a matter of taste. As I said, she used Cabbage, Carrots and Apples. I like some onion in my Coleslaw but the Lovely Wife didnt put any in this time. This is kind of what he did:

Shred Cabbage and Carrots. Chop apples into small cubes. Mix together (rough measurements)
3 Tbs. white vinegar
4 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce
pepper, to taste
2 Tbl. sugar
lemon juice

and add in the shredded vegetables. Mix well. Then add in enough mayonaisse to taste.



There you have it. A quick and easy coleslaw recipe that makes a great side dish or even a quick light meal!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Little did I know....

When I started this blog, little did I know how much fun I would have. Little did I know either how much work it would be. Fun yes, but a lot of work too! Little did I know also how many friends I would make on the blogosphere. And finally, little did I know how many people would read my blog and little did I know that I would get some blog awards too!
This award comes to me from my good friend Val over at More Than Burnt Toast. In my opinion, Val's blog is a Brilliant Blog and she is pretty near awesome too. So it is very humbling indeed to be given this award from her...
Brilliant Weblog is a prize given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.


Like everything in life, there are rules for this award. The rules are pretty simple.
When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back.
Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’.
Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).

I think there are so, so many blogs out there that are worthy of mention and some that deserve this much more than I do. In the spirit though of passing this award on, these are my nominations.

Jenn the Leftover Queen - One of the first food blogs I started to read and someone who has now become a close friend
Meeta from What's for Lunch Honey - an inspiring photographer and food blogger who has also become a dear friend
Tanna from my Kitchen in Half Cups - someone who always has a kind word and who runs a great 'ship' when it comes to the sea of blogs
Breadchick Mary - what can I say! Her blog is superb and she Mary has taken me to new heights with her friendship as well as her skill in breadmaking.I can now bake bread and in no small part thanks to her.
Anne from Cooking with Anne - a brilliant blogger, mother, wife. Truly an amazing woman.
Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms - another of my early food blog buddies.
Courtney from Coco cooks and Nikki from Nik Snacks - two fellow bloggers that are frequent visitors and who have their own awesome blogs!

So there you have it. Yes, Yes I know that I picked eight but what are you gonna do, shoot me?? Little did I know how difficult it was going to be to just pick seven. And little did I know how many of you I wanted to pick but the list would just be too long.

Most of all though, Little do I know how little i really know....

Monday, 18 August 2008

Papaya



The papaya is most often found in countries with a tropical climate and as such is easily found in Malaysia. I’d say, very quickly, that the papaya ranks as one of my favourite fruits. The papaya is usually eaten, without the skin and seeds of course, although it can also be made into a juice. The fruit is high in vitamins C and A and also contains a large number of minerals. The papaya is well regarded in many cultures and is well known for promoting digestion as well as good bowel movement. The fruit (and other parts of the plant) contains an enzyme that helps break down protein and this is why, traditionally, the leaves and fruit are sometimes used as a meat tenderiser.

In Malaysia, the unripe papaya fruit is sometimes sliced thinly and then pickled to make a delicious snack. This is also often served as an appetizer in restuarants. Other times the fruit is dried or even candied.

To me, nothing beats a slice of freshly cut ripe papaya. Maybe chilled pieces of papaya eaten with ice cream or lightly dressed with sweet ginger syrup. Whichever way you choose to eat it, Papaya is one delicious fruit!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Baked Chicken and Vegetables



One of my favourite kitchen appliances is the Oven. Without the oven, baking cakes, cookies and breads would be practically impossible. In fact baking or roasting anything would be impossible. One of my favourite ways of cooking involves using the oven - to bake or roast meat. Actually, what IS the difference between baking and roasting?

Apparently not a lot. Purists would say that you can't actually roast food in an oven. Roasting would need to be done in the opne, over an open flame, such as on a spit. Then there is the other school of thought that says that roasting requires fat - either the fat inherent in meat or fat that is added, such as butter or oil.

I guess things evolve though as nowadays, roasting is quite commonly done in the oven - with or without fat. So I guess roast is bake and bake is roast except that we always bake cakes and never roast them. Now you know the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at nights...

Regardless of the argument on baking and roasting, this is a quick and easy dish that is so simple to make and yet very tasty. I just love baking meat as the meat not only cooks in the high heat but bastes itself in its 'original juices'.

No real recipe to this as its pretty much throwing a lot of things together. I would think that any vegetables you throw together with the chicken and bake would turn out great!



This is what I did. I seasoned chicken breast with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Then I peeled a whole bunch of garlic cloves, cut up some mushrooms (but of course!), eggplant and red capsicum. I threw them all together in a baking pan and baked it at 190C for about 30 minutes.

See? Told you it was simple. I served it with some Cherry Tomatoes that added some extra flavour as well as bite to the dish. The kids and the Lovely Wife loved it and so did I!





Thursday, 14 August 2008

Daily Tiffin - Are you raising a picky eater

Cooking or Finding the right type of food that your kids will eat without fuss can sometime be a hassle. Some children are just extremely fussy eaters and wont eat this or will grumble about that. What really makes a picky eater? Are children born to be picky eaters or is it something that they acquire.
My Article over at the Daily Tiffin explores this issue - Are you raising a picky eater.
I hope you enjoy the post!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Trifle Cake and the Unveiling of The Lovely Wife...



Today is The Lovely Wife's Birthday! I wrote yesterday how much she loves Trifle and how I had decided to make a Trifle Cake for her. I used Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake recipe, first baked for the March Daring Bakers Challenge, as the base for the Trifle Cake. This is truly a wonderful cake that is so delicious and practically melts in the mouth.

The cake turned out really well and The Lovely Wife loved it so much that she Finally agreed to let me post pictures of her on my blog. Hence the Unveiling of The Lovely Wife...!


Although I have made trifle many times, this is the first time I ever thought to make it as a cake. This cake also has many firsts. Its the first time I used jam rather than jelly (what my American friends would call Jello) as a layer. Its also the first time I made my own Creme Patisserie or Pastry Cream and also the very first time I have used Vanilla Pods! I usually simply use Vanilla Essence. Finally, it is also the very first time I have coloured cream. So yes, many firsts on this Dessert Cake.




This is what I did. (See end of post for individual component recipes)

Ingredients
1 recipe Perfect Party Cake
1 recipe Pastry Cream (from Joyofbaking.com)
1 can of mixed fruits
250gm jar of Strawberry Jam
1/8 cup water
2 tsp gelatine powder
1/6 cup Brandy
400 ml
3 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1 tsp vanilla Essence
200g Almond Nibs

Method.
Bake the Cakes as per the recipe and set aside. Make the Pastry Cream as per the recipe and set aside. Place one layer of cake on a cake board. Trim the top if necessary to get a flat cake. Drain the fruits and then arrange neatly on top of the cake.
Melt Jam with water until smooth. Add in the gelatine and stir until all the gelatine is dissolved. Allow to cool slightly. While still warm, spoon the jam evenly over the fruits taking care not to let the jam spill over the sides. Place in fridge a little while to firm up.
Place second layer on top of fruits. Press down slightly and then cover the top with Pastry Cream. Place in fridge for a little while to firm up. Meanwhile, whisk the Whipping Cream with Icing sugar and Vanilla Essence until stiff peaks form. Cover top and sides of cake with the cream. Cover top of cake with Almond Nibs. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.



While I was adding the Pastry Cream to the cake, somehow my hands slipped and the pyrex bowl came tumbling down - onto the cake, knocking some of the cream off the top of the cake and on to the sides - and then the bowl went crashing to the floor and shattered! I was NOT happy and still don't know how I managed to let the bowl slip. Anyway, I managed to salvage the Pastry Cream off the sides of the cake and put it back on top. Fortunately there wasn't that much pastry cream left in the bowl so not great loss - other than the bowl of course.

Since I had some remaining cream and since I wanted to make the cake pretty, I whipped the extra cream with a dash of red colouring and piped it over the cake. It was getting a little late and my consistency wasn't as firm as it should have been which is why the stars are not as pretty as they should be! It always tough getting cream whipped to the right consistency, especially in warm, humid Malaysia.

When The Lovely Wife saw the cake sitting pretty in the fridge, she remarked that it looked lovely and asked me what cake it was. I told her it was a Trifle Cake and she looked at me almost in disbelief. I laughed and told her to just wait till she cut the cake as I wasn't quite sure how it would turn out anyhow. My biggest fear was that the cake wouldn't cut properly or worse still, would not stand on its own once sliced.

It turned out wonderfully though! The kids had fun taking pictures with Mummy cutting the cake.



Although I was enjoying taking the photos, I was also waiting for The Lovely Wife to take a taste of the cake. It's also sad that being the one behind the camera, there are no photos with me. Hopefully one day my kids will take up an interest in photography too - then they can take all the pictures!



The Lovely Wife was thrilled with the cake and pronounced it more than a success. She thought it tasted just like a trifle but the fact that it was in the form of a cake and wasn't 'messy' like how a trifle is after scooping out into a bowl got bonus marks! She just wasn't sure if she preferred a layer of jelly to jam but that is something that is easily fixed.


The kids loved it too and they were excited to celebrate Mummy's birthday with so many photos. There was a lot of fun to be had as well as you can see below. This is where The Lovely Wife scooped up some pink coloured cream and placed it on my daughter's nose!






What I particularly liked about this dessert is that is very little wastage. 4 egg whites are needed for the Cake while 3 egg yolks are needed for the Pastry Cream. I actually considered using 4 yolks but didn't want to tempt fate. I'll probably try that another time.


Another creation to add to my list of winning desserts. I must say I was very pleased with how this cake turned out but what was most pleasing was how happy The Lovely Wife was with the cake. Happy Birthday Honey!





PERFECT PARTY CAKE
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).
For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up


Creme Patissierie/ Pastry Cream by Stephanie Jaworski
Recipe:

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/8 cup (20 grams) all-purpose flour
Scant 3 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch

Method
In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor. This sugar can then be used in baking where you would like a vanilla-flavored sugar, e.g. pies, cakes, cookies.)

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.


Saturday, 9 August 2008

In preparation of...

Can you keep a secret? Tomorrow is the Lovely Wife's birthday. Good thing she doesn't read this blog, coz then she'd know what I was doing. I'd actually like to know how many of your spouses read your blogs?! Doesn't really matter though, but back to the birthday. Truth be told though, she would probably know what I was making her by this afternoon anyway as how do you bake a secret cake for your wife when she lives in the same house?

She's gone grocery shopping with the kids now so I've already made the white cake - I used Dories Perfect Party Cake Recipe that I first made for the March Daring Bakers Challenge. I plan to use that as the base for a Boozy Trifle Cake. Thats my plan.

You see, The Lovely Wife simply adores trifle. My trifle in particular. Whenever I make trifle for her, she gets all doe eyed and goes on and on about how much she loves my trifle. Then she starts berating me for making trifle as "it goes straight to my hips!" Then she immediately asks for another bowl. I think you get the idea - she loves my trifle!

So... the plan is, to make her a cake in the guise of a cake but a cake that is actually a trifle. Laden with Booze. So a Boozy Trifle Cake.

I've also made the pastry cream or Creme Patissierie. Usually when I make my trifle I used Custard Powder. Not today though. Today its a full blown Creme Patissierie. Are you impressed? I bloody well am!

That's not the end of it though. This time I used - wait for it - Vanilla. Aren't you excited? Oh. You don't quite see the significance. I used VANILLA!!! As in the pod and bean and NOT essence! First time ever I have used the vanilla bean and not essence. First time I've managed to get my grubby hands on Vanilla. Feels good to say Vanilla and not be referring to the essence!

Anyway, would love to stay and chat, but I've got to go to the supermarket and get some Cream and almonds. Talk to you later!

Friday, 8 August 2008

080808 and a Mocha Biscuit Pudding



Before I start this post, I just want to recognise that today is the 8th of August 2008. It is thus the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that I understand is going to start sharp at 8:08 pm. So, in commemoration of the fascination with the number 8, I have also scheduled my post to be posted at 8:08pm on the 080808 - although in Malaysia we would write it as 8/8/08 and to complicate things further, since the Y2K 'problem' I tend to write dates in full so i would write it as 8 August 2008, just to minimise any ambiguity.

So anyway, so much for dates. On to the Dessert!




My son has developed a taste for Mocha. Yes, and coffee too! Before anyone starts screaming at me for letting a 7 year old have coffee - its usually just a teeny tiny sip. More often than not its in a kind of mocha drink too. He loves it! Anyway, anything in moderation is okay in my books.

So one day back in early July, when I had some leftover cream that had to be used up in a hurry, I decided I would make a quick and easy dessert that was - you guessed it - Mocha Flavoured!

The idea from this comes from eating cookies with ice cream. Except, intstead of using ice cream, I make a soft whip and then dollop it over some cookies.

This is what I did.

Ingredients
600ml cream
250gm block chocolate with whole Almonds
1-2 tbsp instant coffee powder
a little milk
Choc Chip Cookies

method
Break the chocolate and place in a large bowl. Bring the cream to boil and then pour over the Chocolate. Stir well till chocolate is completely melted. Strain into another bowl with a wire mesh to strain out the almonds. Set the almonds aside and add the instant coffee powder to the hot chocolate mixture. Mix well and let the chocolate ganache cool.
Whip the chocolate ganache until soft peaks form. Chill in fridge until ready to use. To serve, dip a choc chip cookie in a little milk and then place into a bowl. Spoon over with chocolate ganache and garnish with an almond.



The taste and look of this recipe belies how easy it is to make. It was simply delicious and my son polished off two bowls.



I wont tell you how many bowls I polished off myself!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Kangkung Belacan



One of my favourite vegetable dishes has GOT to be Kangkung Belacan. In fact, one of my favourite vegetables is Kangkung in any form. Kangkung Belacan is a famous Malaysian dish that you can find not only in Malay Restaurants but also in Chinese Cuisine as well.



Kangkung is also known as Water Convolvulus, Water Spinach or Hollow Spinach. I'm sure there are a host of other names for this vegetable but those are the only ones I know! This recipe is also specially for my good friend Jenn, The Leftover Queen who has a bottle of Sambal Belacan in her posession but doesnt quite know what to do with it - so this is for you Jenn!

If you've never seen or heard of Kangkung before, this is what it looks like - washed of course!


For those who are still confused about Sambal Belacan, let me try and explain. Belacan is basically a shrimp/prawn paste used to flavour many dishes. Sambal Belacan is basically Chilli pounded and mixed with Belacan to form a paste. The best way of course would be to make your own Sambal Belacan but you can take the easy way out and buy it ready made - like what I did!



This dish is very, very easy to make - especially if you use the ready made Sambal Belacan. This is what I did:

Ingredients

500g Kangkung
1 large onion
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
100g dried shrimp
3-4 tbsp Sambal Belacan

Method
Wash Kangkung and then cut into 2-3 inch lengths. I usually remove the leaves and then cut the stalk, but leave out the lower bits as they can be a bit stringy. Slice onion thinly and then sautee in the oil. Pound the shrimps in a mortar and then fry together with the Belacan until nice and fragrant. Toss in the Kangkung and quickly stir-fry to combine.




Easy right? And simply beautiful to eat! If you see a lot of dried shrimp in the pictures, its simply because I kind of overdid it this time. I felt a little shrimpy so thats why there is so much shrimp there!!



The best part about this recipe is that there are a whole host of other vegetables that can be cooked this way. Try it with Asparagus, Long beans, Okra (also known as Ladies fingers), Spinach and even eggplant (brinjals). Yeap, whichever vegetable you choose to go with, you cant go wrong!


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