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Sunday, 29 June 2008

Danish Braid and Vikings

Truth be told, I almost missed this months challenge. June has been a rather busy month with things just happening and happening. Before I knew it, there was only a week left before the posting date. I had a bit of an issue with this months challenge too – the requirement to chill the dough for at least 5 hours or overnight meant that I would need to set aside two days to do this challenge. Seeing how I usually only have time to bake on weekends, this was a perfect excuse not to do the challenge – especially when my weekends were all looking so full.

So it really wasn’t looking good. Yet, I knew that I would have to rise to the challenge for isn’t that what the Daring Bakers are all about? Another reason I felt I had to rise to the challenge was that this month’s challenge involved a yeast and butter based pastry. I may have conquered my fear of yeast and making bread but I have never, ever made my own pastry dough using yeast before so this seemed like a pretty good time to try.

This challenge was selected by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and ?Ben of What’s Cookin’?. In true Daring Baker’s style, they chose something that I would never have dreamed of making not ever had the confidence to try. So thanks guys for pushing me on to greater heights!

I had read the recipe once online and it didn’t sound all that complicated.
I decided I would make the dough on the 21st and since we had a wedding reception to attend that night, I planned on baking the dough on Sunday. Good. Sounds like a good plan.

Early on Saturday morning, I sat in front of my PC and scanned the recipe again. I printed out the recipe and I should have known that things would start to get complicated when I found my black ink cartridge ahd dried up. Never fear, we’ll just print in colour then. Nope, all the blasted cartridges were dry. Fortunately I had a spare black cartridge and managed to print the recipe.

I knew I didn’t have any oranges in the fridge but had some lemon so I would just substitute the lemon for the orange. The dough was fairly easy to make and as always, I am thankful for my Kenwood Major. What a marvellous piece of machinery. While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I made the butter block or beurrage. No issue here either and it came together very nicely.

The problem kind of started when I started to roll out the dough. It was a little sticky and I kept dusting it with flour. However, as it got thinner and wider, the dough got stickier underneath and although I kind of had the feeling this was happening, neglected to flip the dough over to prevent it from sticking. Silly, silly, silly.

Anyway, what happened was that after I had spread the beurrage over the dough, when I tried to fold the left side over, it was all sticking to the table and so some bits tore. Pooh! Never mind though, I still managed to patch it up and stick in in the fridge.

Each time I took the chilled dough out and rolled it, bits of butter seemed to ooze out but in the end, after 4 turns, I got a nice dough that had enough butter layered in it. It was not time to wrap the dough and leave it overnight. I must say I was kind of relieved that no major disaster had happened yet!

On Sunday morning, after picking up the kids from Sunday School, I decided I would roll the dough, fill it and proof it. I had decided to make the filling out of a mix of Dark Pitted Cherries and Chocolate as I had a can of cherries on hand as well as some leftover chocolate chips.

The dough handled really nicely although I found that the pads of my hands especially where the palm joined the fingers were really sore after all that rolling the previous day. Each time the rolling pin rolled under my hands, I could feel some pain. Guess this is all signs of age eh! Oh Well!

I got the dough into a nice spread out rectangle and then trimmed the edges. Lovely! This is where I think I made a small mistake. Not having read the recipe enough and basically having it fixed in my head that braid meant braid as in how your braid hair, I think I messed up this part.

In hindsight, I should have had more filling in the centre so that the filling came right up to the edges of the slits. What I did was to pile the filling in the centre of the centre strip, meaning there was excess dough to fold over. So when I tried to fold the flaps over, I actually needed to fold the dough over too and that caused a bit of a mess with the flaps flapping all over! That’s kind of how I got a braid criss-crossing all over the place. Actually quite attractive to look at but not the way a braid should be right? Oh so what, lets just call it artistic licence - especially since we were given licence to braid the dough any way we wished!

I made a smaller braid too and then since the remaining dough was starting to melt and get all sticky, I rolled it out, filled it and then made a kind of ‘rocket’ shape for the kids!

It was time for the dough to proof and so I left it to do its rising. My son had been peeking in to check on what I was making and when I said it was a Danish Braid he didn’t seem too excited as he thought it was a Danish Bread. His interest was piqued though when he saw me braiding the dough and he got even more excited when I explained that it wasn’t really a bread but more a pastry that was filled with Chocolate and Dark Cherries! You could almost see his eyes light up.

After checking in every couple of minutes and asking when it would be ready, I told him that he would have to wait more than two hours for the dough to rise and then for it to bake in the oven. I told him to go and play and that I would call him once the Danish was ready.

I was rather excited too especially when I saw how nicely the dough had doubled!

Into the oven the dough went and after 10 minutes, I turned it just as the recipe called for. Another 25 minutes in the oven and the whole house smelled like a bakery!

I place the big Danish on a nice plate while I placed the smaller Danish on another serving plate and called out to my son.

He was thrilled to carry out the smaller Danish to show off to the Lovely Wife and pose for this picture.

It was rather apt that he was playing with his Lego Vikings as not only does Lego come from Denmark, but Danes also have a proud Viking tradition. My son insisted on this picture of the smaller Danish Braid with his Viking – which explains the title of this post.

I guess the most pressing question is how did the Danish taste? Well, I think my combination of Chocolate and Dark Cherries was fantastic as not only did the fruit go really well with the Danish, but the chocolate added a bit of decadence as well. I think Chocolate makes everything taste better!!

The Danish itself was lovely with it’s buttery layers and almost melt in the mouth texture. My official testers loved it as you can see below.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes words can say so much more. The proof that my testers really enjoyed this Daring Bakers Challenge is the fact that not one, but both of them chirped up after finishing a large slice of Danish:

“May I have another piece please?”

Need I say more?

This is the recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Breakfast for lunch?

My daughter is a great fan of Scrambled Eggs. It all started some time ago when we had gone out grocery shopping rather early, both she and my son were famished so to acquiesce their hunger, we had a late breakfast at Coffee Bean. We ordered the Scrambled Eggs with Salmon for her and my son to share and they really enjoyed it. So…Daddy of course had to do it better!

As a child, I was never treated to such a nice breakfast. My childhood memories of breakfast are still very clear in my mind. Each morning, mum would serve us each a half-boiled egg and a glass of milk or Milo. Sometimes, especially on weekends, there would be a treat of cereal. What I really hated about breakfast though was the fact that we had to take one cod liver oil tablet right after. I would end up burping just as I got to school and the nasty taste of cod liver oil would linger in my mouth until recess!

To be fair though the kids usually have have cereal or bread for breakfast. Scrambled Eggs with Salmon is definitely not the norm! My daughter likes her scrambled eggs so much that one day, when we were at home and wondering what to have for lunch, she asked if we could have Scrambled Eggs. No issue there but to spruce the meal up a bit, I decided to pop down to the local super and get a teeny bit of smoked salmon as well as some mushrooms.

So lunch that day was scrambled eggs with salmon, a side of garlic mushrooms and toasted bread. I dont think I need to give you a recipe for scrambled eggs but if you insist, this is how I make my eggs. 2 eggs per serving.

2 eggs
a little milk
a little oil or butter

Beat the eggs with the milk. The milk makes the eggs a little lighter and fluffier. Season with a little salt and pepper and if you like some herbs like oregano, basil or rosemary. Heat oil or butter in a pan and pour the egg mixture in. Allow the bottom to cook a little and then stir the mixture, scraping the bottom and lifting with a spatula. The liquid egg will then run under the lifted part lifted. Keep moving the egg around as you repeat the scraping and lifiting. The egg will start to form curds. Depending on whether you like your scrambled eggs moist or dry and also depending on whether you prefer the curds small or large will determine how long you cook the eggs for.

Some people may thumb their noses at having scrambled eggs with salmon for lunch.
To me, as long as the food is good and wholesome, it doesn't matter if you eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner - Especially when the children love it!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Spicy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

Whenever I eat something interesting at a restaurant, I feel compelled to try and make it at home. This compulsion gets even more pressing if someone, especially The Lovely Wife, tells me that they enjoyed something somewhere! It's even worse if I'm in their company while they are eating something they enjoy.

That's exaclty what happened some time ago. One of my colleagues and I went out for lunch at Dome. Faz ordered the Spicy Chicken Mushroom Pasta while I ordered the Grilled Chicken. I wasn't terribly impressed with the Grilled Chicken while Faz thought the Pasta was really nice. She asked me to have a taste and asked if I could figure out what was in it. I had to admit it was nice and so that very weekend, I attempted to recreate it.

The sauce was kind of a creamy tomato sauce with hints of curry powder in it. So this is what I did:

3 cloves garlic - chopped
1 onion - slided
4 cloves
300 g Chicken breast - sliced thinly
1 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsps curry powder
200g swiss brown mushrooms - quartered
200g cherry tomatoes - halved
100 ml milk
1 tbsp corn flour
1 medium sized green capsicum - thinly sliced.
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Marinate the chicken with salt, pepper and turmeric.
Heat some oil and sautee the garlic, onions and cloves. Add in the curry powder and fry well before adding in chicken. Cook well and then add in the mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook until mushrooms are tender and tomatoes release their juice. Add in the milk and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Mix corn flour with a little water and add into the mixture. Cook until thickened. Stir in the capsicum.

I served this with Spaghetti and I think it was a good replica if not better than the one that we tasted at Dome!

I've submitted this as an entry as well for Presto Pasta Nights. Look out for the roundup this Friday, hosted by Hillary over at Chew On That.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Royal Foodie Joust - Poulet d'Abricot

It's Royal Foodie Joust time again. If my calculations are correct, this is the 12th joust and that means the RFJ is almost 1 year old!! I almost didn't make it for the Joust this time as I just couldn't find the time to do anything. However...
Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

Sorry, sorry. Does that ever happen to anyone else? You know, you start writing something and what you write reminds you of a song and you just cant get it out of your head? Anyone? Anyone??

Anyway, James Taylor has left the studio. As I was saying, just yesterday morning,
while in the midst of doing something very secret and that I can't talk about until the 29th, The Lovely Wife asked me if I wanted to do anything for lunch with some chicken that was in the fridge. I immediately thought of this month's Joust but realised I didn't have any apricots anywhere.

Nothing that a quick trip to the neighbourhood supermarket wont solve! I already had a rough idea of what I was going to make. My son came along with me for the ride and I was just planning to buy some mushrooms and dried apricots since fresh apricots are not only rather hard to come by but are rather pricey too. Would you believe that today they had some fresh apricots??!!!

I gave my son the choice of deciding whether we should buy fresh apricots or the dried ones (double in cost!!) so if I got in trouble with the Lovely Wife, I could always blame my son - as if I would do that :) We both reasoned that since neither he nor his sister had ever tried fresh apricots, we would get the fresh ones. So that was that.

The ingredients for this joust were Apricots, Ginger and Butter. Now usually, that would scream out something sweet like a pie or cake or even the Apricot Almond Cheesecake I made for my very first Joust. I decided however to go the unconventional route and do something savoury.

This is what I did:

1 chicken
1 inch ginger
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
3 apricots
3 Kaffir Lime Leaves
2 tsp Basil
1 tsp rosemary
250gm Portobello Mushrooms
Handful of almonds
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
200ml milk
Black Pepper

Clean and cut chicken into pieces.
Chop Onions and garlic and slice ginger thinly. Set aside. Cut mushrooms into large pieces and set aside. Cut apricots into thick slices. Heat oil in pan and sautee the onions, ginger and garlic together with the basil and Kaffir Lime Leaves. Add in the mushrooms and cook till tender. Add in the chicken and mix well before adding in the apricots. Add in a little water if necessary. Meanwhile make the roux sauce by melting the butter and then adding the flour. Cook the flour and then add in the milk. Continue to stir until mixture thickens. Add the sauce to the chicken mixture and allow to simmer until sauce is really thick and apricots are soft and have released their flavour. Season with salt and pepper. Before servings, toast some almond slivers and sprinkle on top.

I served this with rice and as a garnish, I added thinly sliced fresh apricots. That lent a nice crunch and extra tanginess to the dish. The kids were rather hungry and the creamy chicken was quickly devoured. Both my son and daughter loved the apricots in the chicken and they liked the fresh apricot garnish even more! The Lovely Wife loved it too and while stuffing her face, managed a "well done Honey!"

Now I needed a name. I contemplated naming this dish Creamy Chicken with Apricots and Mushrooms but I decided that I would make the dish sound exotic by giving it a French name and thus Poulet d'Abricot was born!

So with the Joust completed, a new dish discovered and even a fancy schmancy name created, I can go back to singing. Which is what I think I will do. Now, I just know the Lovely Wife is going to start wondering who Suzanne is...

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Friday, 20 June 2008

More Necessity, More Invention - or how to Wing It!

Without a doubt, pasta is one of the best thing to make when tummies are rumbling and the grocery provisions are sparse. Personally, I prefer making pasta when I have ALL my required ingredients rather than having to wing it. But really, what can you do when your doe eyed children ask you to make Pasta and you haven't got the requisite ingredients and its too late to go to the store coz they are just too darned hungry?

That seems to happen fairly often in my house! I guess the kids just love pasta. After all, what kid doesn't - not to mention adults! I love my pasta too, so maybe that's where my kids get it from.

Anyway, the decision to have pasta had been made by the kids and no amount of alternative suggestions seemed to work. They wanted their pasta. Worse, they wanted a meat sauce pasta and as luck would have it - there were no tomatoes in the house!! Never mind, I thought, lets check the fridge and see what we have.

Ahhh... Celery! That's always good. One carrot, also good. Tomato sauce - no, no that's not so good - Tomato Paste yes but not Tomato Sauce. Well, mince, carrot and celery would make for a pretty decent pasta. (Regular readers of this blog would know that I LOVE mushrooms in my pasta sauce and the absence of which means the pasta sauce is somehow incomplete).

But what to do for a sauce? I tossed up with making a creamy meat sauce but wasn't quite sure how it would go with loads of mince. The fridge was still open and my beady little eyes spied the bottle of prune juice! Aha! That would do the trick!

So what I did was to first fry the meat, celery and carrots. Then I made a roux (flour cooked in butter) and then added some milk and the prune juice to it. This made a lovely meaty sauce that was very hearty and tasty.

This is what I did:

1 carrot
1 celery
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp oregano
350g Minced Beef
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
300 ml milk
100 ml prune juice

Chop the carrot, celery and garlic. Fry the garlic and then add in the beef and cook well. Add in the carrots and celery and cook till tender. In a separate sauce pan make the roux by melting the butter and then adding the flour. Cook well and then pour in the milk mixing well till smooht. Bring to the boil and then add in the prune juice and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce into the beef mix and allow to simmer.

I served this with Penne and the kids were delighted at how good the pasta tasted and how fast I was able to whip it up!

I've also sent this in as an entry for Presto Pasta Nights which has a brand new home now Head on over there to see the other amazing entries and to get more information on how to enter yourself!


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Baked Mackerel Asian Style and more Cultural Exchange

I'm going Asian again for this post and this time it's Fish! I mentioned in my Cod Post that I don't have much experience in making fish but am slowly trying out new things. I also mentioned that my favourite way of cooking fish is to wrap it in foil together with a whole bunch of other ingredients and then bake it. I took the same route this time!

This recipe was inspired by a Steamed Fish we had at Kuala Selangor. This would be a good time for some Cultural Exchange too! Kuala is the Malay word for confleunce of two rivers or River Mouth. Hence, Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, literally translated means 'muddy confluence' as two rivers - Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang. Sungai of course means River.

Kuala Selangor is the name of a small town locate at the river mouth of Sungai Selangor while Selangor is one of the larger states in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, itself a Federal Territory, is completely surrounded by Selangor. So much for the Geography lesson.

Kuala Selangor however, aside from its fantastic seafood, is World Famous for it's fireflies. The mangrove swamp along the river is home to one of the largest firefly colonies in the World! Apparently the only other place that you can see fireflies like this is in Brazil although there is also apparently a cave in New Zealand that has a lot of glowworms. (I'm not sure if glowworms are the same as fireflies...). Regardless, it is truly a wondrous sight.

Anyone of you wanna come to KL to visit me, I'll take you to see the fireflies and then for dinner at Kuala Selangor!

Back to the fish now. Mackerel is what is known as Tenggiri in this neck of thw woods. The fish we had at Kuala Selangor was a steamed Sea Bass or Barramundi - what we call Siakap.

This is what I did with the fish, trying to replicate what we ate.

1 inch ginger - sliced
2 cloves garlic - chopped
3 stalks lemon grass (serai) - bruised
3 tomatoes - quartered
5 bay leaves
4 Mackerel Steaks
a little soy sauce
Chilli Flakes
Sesame Oil

Place fish in Aluminium foil and rub a little soy sauce and sesame oil on it. Add the rest of the ingredients over and around the fish and then fold the foil into an envelope shape. Bake in preheated 190C overn for about 20 minutes till fish is cooked.

So simple and yet so delicious. The Lovely Wife reckoned it was almost as good as what we had eaten and she suggested that next time I should add some Tofu in as well - just like in the restaurant! I myself was very pleased with this effort and the kids loved it too - so a definite winner here!

Monday, 16 June 2008

I Love You Daddy Cookies

Father's Day was celebrated in Malaysia on Sunday, 15th June. My son and daughter made me a batch of cookies that my daughter calls "I love you Daddy Cookies." She learnt the recipe from her kindergarten and actually made a batch in kindy for Mother's day back in May = although when she made them for Mother's Day, they were called I Love You Mummy Cookies....

Both the kids with the help of The Lovely Wife surprised me with these cookies. I was taking an afternoon nap on Saturday thinking that the kids were napping with Mummy too. When I woke up a short while later, I heard some noise downstairs and realised that everyone was awake.

I went downstairs and as soon as the Kids saw me coming downstairs, they looked at the Lovely Wife and broke out in smiles. I new something was up when they all started giggling as I went to the kithcen to get some water. As I opened the fridge, I saw two plates of these cookies inside!

What a wonderful gift for me! This is the recipe (as explained by my daughter who also insists the recipe is hers!). There are no real measurements as you just need to estimate everything.

Corn Flakes
Almond nibs
Chocolate Sprinkles
Heart Shaped Candy Sprinkles

Crush the corn flakes in a bag, Put into a bowl. Cut the almonds and add into the bowl. Add the raisins and chocolate sprinkles. Mix Well. Put the chocolate in the microwave and melt till it becomes gooey and hot. Mix the chocolate into the bowl and mix everything together. Scoop the whole thing into small cupcake cases. Then put the heart sprinkles all over on top. Put into the fridge to set. So easy!

Yes! That's the way my darling princess explained it to me. According to her, you also MUST have heart shaped sprinkles because the cookies are "for people you love, so you need to have heart shaped sprinkles." Both she and her brother made the cookies and I must say they were indeed delicious!

Thank you so much for my lovely Father's Day Cookies!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Tagged again...

I've been tagged for another meme and this time I've been tagged by my friend Dolores whom I Always have to think of whenever I eat Nutella!!

This meme is a series of Questions, much like a chat show or one of those questionaires in fancy magazines...

But first the rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

And now the Q&A:

What was I doing ten years ago?
10 years ago, I was busy planning my wedding! We got married in September 1998 so 10 years ago in June, we were thinking about invitation cards, reception places, the church programme...all the things that needed to be done!

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?
1. Try and get some blog posts scheduled
2. It's Sunday so it's having fun with kids day!
3. Think about this months Daring Bakers Challenge
4. Think about the new Lens I want for my DSLR
5. General weekend cleanups - ho hum!

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. Chocolate
2. Potato Chips
3. Nutella
4. Biscuits/Cookies
5. Fried Banana Chips

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Quit my job and open a restaurant - it wouldnt matter if it didn't do well coz I'm a Billionaire!
2. Buy a Merc for me and a Beamer for the Wife
3. Buy a few houses and earn rental income - so that even if the restaurant didn't earn me a decent income, at least I wont go bankrupt!
4. Donate a couple of million to a noble cause
5. Take the wife and kids on a long holiday that would include Disneyland!

Places I have lived:
1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2. Virginia, USA
3. Melbourne, Australia

Jobs I have had:
1. Dishwasher during student days
2. Petrol Station Cashier during student days
3. Production Engineer at a Manufacturing Company
4. various Engineering positions at Malaysia Airlines
5. IT Manager at General Electric Aircraft Engines
6. Head of Quality and Safety at Maxis (a Telecommunications Company)

Sharing the love... (Tag, you're it)
I'm not really one to pass on Meme's so whoever would like to participate, please feel free to do so and consider yourself tagged from me...!
1. anyone who feels like it

Friday, 13 June 2008

Chicken Curry

To me, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a fiery curry with rice. Yes, Rice and Curry would definitely have to rank right up there as superb comfort food. When I first started to cook regularly, as a Uni student in Australia, a good curry always brought back images and tastes of home.

I remember sitting with my housemates, watching TV in the lounge, with our plates piled high with steaming rice and hot and spicy chicken curry. It didn't matter how cold it was cold outside nor did it matter that we were in the middle of exams. All that mattered at that moment was how good the rice and curry tasted and how much it reminded all of us of home!

This is my recipe for Chicken Curry.

1 Whole Chicken
1/2 inch ginger
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Large Onion
handful of curry leaves
3 Tbsp Curry Powder
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp fennel
4 cloves
3 Tomatoes
2 potatoes
½ Cup Fresh Milk
2 tbsp Cooking Oil
Salt to taste

Wash and cut chicken into medium pieces. Rub chicken with turmeric and ginger, salt and pepper. Remove skin if desired
Heat oil in deep pan or wok. Fry onions and curry leaves
Add in curry powder, fennel, cumin and cloves and lightly fry till fragrant. Take care not to burn the onions. Add in the sliced tomatoes and then toss in the chicken and potatoes. Mix well.

Pour in a little water if too dry. Allow the chicken to cook and then simmer until liquid is reduced. Add the milk and cook until mixture is thick.

If you like a 'richer' curry, use freshly squeezed Coconut Milk (or the canned variety) instead of fresh milk. I try and stay away from Coconut Milk in my curries as it is rather fatty albeit delicious!

Some people prefer their curry with more gravy. I like mine thick and with the curry coating the chicken in all its gooey goodness. If you like your curry with more gravy, just add in more water or milk. Simple as that!

When my mom used to make curry for all of us, she had a little trick to make sure that none of the 'gooey goodness' was wasted. After spooning the curry into a serving dish, she would scoop a spoon of rice into the wok or saucepan and mop up all the leftover curry. We would all then fight for that bit of rice!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Opera Cake without terrorists....

After succesfully completing what I called the Albino Opera Cake. for the May Daring Bakers Challenge, I decided to make the traditional Opera Cake. For those of you that read my DB post, you'd know that my son thinks our Daring Bakers logo looks like a bunch of terrorists attacking a town. So, since this post doesn't really involve the Daring Bakers, no terrorists were involved in the making of this cake - and hence the title!

A Traditional Opera Cake is full of flavours from the Dark Side - coffee soaked Joconde, layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate mousse and finally covered with a chocolate glaze. Yoda will definitely not be happy.

Hmmmm... Evil the Dark Side is....

I made a small rectangle Opera rather than the large square Opera. So does that make my Opera an Operetta?!! I'll try to stop being funny...

The recipe I used was adapted from Dorie Greenspans Paris Sweets. I halved the recipe and rather than using Dorie's recipe for Coffee Buttercream, I made my own. This is the halved recipe together with my coffee buttercream

- 2 tbsps (30g) unsalted butter, melted
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 tbsps granulated sugar
- 1 cups (110) almond flour or finely ground almonds
- 1 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, and coat parchment with 1 tbsp of the melted butter.
In a clean, dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on low speed until the whites become foamy, then whip on medium-high speed until the whites reach soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, and whip on high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy.
In a separate mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat almond flour, icing sugar, and eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and voluminous. Add flour and beat at low speed until it disappears. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the remaining melted butter until just combined. Spread mixture into pan and spread evenly.
Bake cake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

Coffee Syrup
- ¼ cup water
- 1/6 cup granulated sugar (half of 1/3)
- ¾ tbsps (7g) instant coffee powder
In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar and coffee powder, and bring to a boil, while stirring to dissolve ingredients. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.

Coffee Buttercream
- 3oz butter
- 2 tbsps instant coffee powder
- 2 tbsps (15g) boiling water
- 3 oz Icing Sugar

In small bowl, combine coffee powder and boiling water and stir until dissolved.
In a mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar till light and fluggy. Slowly add the coffee mixture while beating.

- 4oz (120g) bittersweet chocolate (70% +), finely chopped
- ½ cup (60g) heavy cream

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a saucepan, bring milk and cream to a boil, and pour over the chocolate. Let the chocolate melt for 30 seconds, then gently stir the mixture until smooth and fully combined.. Beat till thick

On a cutting board, measure joconde into three.
Place one piece on cake pan and moisten with 3 tablespoons of coffee syrup. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread half of the buttercream over the joconde. Freeze the cake for 10 minutes to allow it to firm.
On top of the buttercream, place another sheet of joconde. Moisten with 3 tablespoons of coffee syrup and use and offset spatula to evenly spread the ganache/mousse over the joconde. Place the last joconde piece on top of the ganache, and moisten with the remaining coffee syrup. Freeze the cake for 10 minutes to allow it to firm.
Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the remaining buttercream over the joconde. Make sure the surface is very smooth and even. freeze the cake for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze
- 4 tbsps (60g) unsalted butter
- 3oz bittersweet chocolate (70% +), finely chopped

Transfer the cake to a rack on a level surface.
Melt butter and chocolate over double boiler.
Working quickly, pour the glaze onto the cake and use an offset spatula to smooth the glaze evenly across the top, allowing the glaze to drip off the sides. If more than one minute has elapsed, do not return to fix any small imperfections, as the buttercream underneath the glaze may have melted, and smoothing the surface may mix the buttercream with the glaze. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes, or until the glaze has hardened.

I decided to cover the tops and sides with chocolate to make it more decadent. I served this for dessert one night and our guests couldn't quite believe that it was home made.

I absolutely love this dessert and it's really not that difficult to make although there are quite a few steps to it. The Lovely Wife and the Kids loved it too. I much prefer the chocolate/coffee version to the "albino" version. The Opera Cake is truly a very spectacular and yummy dessert to serve as well as eat!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Chicken Pie

One of the Lovely Wife's favourite dishes is Chicken Pie. In fact, it was a challenge from her that spurred me to make my own Chicken Pie. Most of the restaurants we have eaten at serve Chicken Pot Pies where the pie is served in a bowl and covered with puff pastry on top. My wife prefers a complete pie with pastry at the bottom as well. Not one to resist a challenge, I came up with this recipe and she now rates this as one of her favourites.

A couple of weeks ago, we invited her cousin and his wife over for dinner. She suggested that I make Chicken Pie as she was sure that it would be something that would be well liked. Whenever I make pie, I usually make enough for two 9" pies, as Chicken Pie is lovely eaten as leftovers.

All went well when suddenly we realised that one of my pie plates was in my Mother-in-Laws house. I quickly decided that I would try and make mini Chicken Pies using ramekins. That actually turned out quite nicely as now each person had his own personal pie. The kids loved that they had their own individual pies too!

Usually, I use shortcrust pastry for the base and Puff Pastry for the top. However, this time, as a cost saving measure, I just used Puff pastry for the base and top. It turned out well!

This is my recipe for Chicken Pie

1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry
1 sheet frozen Shortcrust Pastry
1 Egg

400 gm Boneless Chicken Breast
250 gm Fresh Button Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Large Carrots
3 Potatoes
250 gm fresh Spinach (or use frozen if you like)
200 ml Cream
½ Tsp Black Pepper
½ tbsp Corn Flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Oregano
2 Bay Leaves
½ tsp Rosemary
8 Rashers Bacon (optional)

Line bottom of 9” pie dish with shortcrust pastry. Trim edges and use to cover open areas of dish and line edges of dish. Bake Blind in pre-heated 190oC Oven for about 15 minutes. (Baking Blind means covering the pastry with baking parchment / greaseproff paper and filling the shell with rice or beans to prevent the pastry from rising. Baking blind ensures that the bottom layer stays firm and doesn’t get soggy once the filling is put in.) Remove and let cool.

While shell is baking, Cut chicken into small squares. Mix 1/2 tbsp corn flour with pepper and salt. Add in Chicken and mix well so that chicken pieces are coated. Let rest.
Meanwhile, slice mushrooms thinly, cut carrots and potatoes into squares. Heat oil in pan. Add in chopped garlic, Oregano, Bay leaves and Rosemary and fry lightly till fragrant. Add in Chicken and cook well. Add in bacon if using and cook well.
Add in Mushroom and cook till mushrooms are tender. Add in Potatoes and Carrots and simmer. Add in Cream. Mix well and simmer uncovered. Add in chopped spinach and mix well. Continue to simmer until mixture is thick and potatoes, carrots and spinach are all cooked. Mix a little corn flour with water and add to the mixture (if required) to make it thicker. Allow to cool.
Fill shell with Chicken filling, taking care to fill evenly to corners and sides. Ensure that filling is COOL before filling pie. Cover with sheet of Puff Pastry. Moisten edges of pastry with water and press down firmly. Using a butter knife, trim the sides, cutting upwards. This helps the pastry from separating while baking.
Using left over pastry, decorate top of pie with pastry shapes. Beat the egg lightly and brush top and edges of pie. Bake in a Pre-Heated 220C Oven on the middle tray for at least 20 minutes or until pastry has risen and is golden brown.
Serve Hot and Enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Daily Tiffin - The GirEleCroc

It's time for another post at the Daily Tiffin. This time, I talk a little about the creativity of kids and how imaginative they can be. That's somehow so very different from when I was a kid where we were expected to conform to certain norms.

Read the full article over at The Daily Tiffin

Monday, 2 June 2008

Corn Bread with Whipped Herb Butter

Back in the days when I was scared of yeast, actually terrified would be a better word, I longed to make bread. How though to make bread when you are terrified of yeast? Well, I happened to come across an old, old recipe book at my mom's house that had a few recipes for 'yeast-less' Bread in it. The book in question is the Australian Women's Weekly New Cookbook. Obviously not so new now since the book is dated 1978.

I tried quite a few of these 'yeast-less' breads including Beer Bread and even Coke Bread - the kind of Coke you drink and not the kind you sniff. Although sometimes when you drink it really fast, it goes up your nose and you can always say that your snorting coke...? Ha Ha. I used to tell that joke many years ago. I was young - so shoot me!

Anyway, after many abject failures, I tried the Corn Bread recipe. It turned out really nice although it didn't rise quite as much as I thought it would. I reckon it you wanted a higher bread, you'd just need to double the recipe.

This recipe soon became a favourite of mine and I've made it quite a few times.

Corn Bread
60g Butter
1 Cup Cornmeal / Polenta
1 Cup Self Raising Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Cup Milk
1 Egg
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Put Cornmeal in a large mixing bowl. Sift Flour and baking powder together into the bowl. Mix all dry ingredients together. Heat milk and butter together in a pan until butter melts. Pour into flour and mix well. Add in egg and mix the whole mixture well. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated 220oC oven for 25 minutes or till done.

I like to serve the Corn Bread with whipped herb butter. This is how I make my herbed butter.

Whipped Herb Butter
100 g Butter
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Rosemary
1 tsp basil
Olive Oil

Pound or grind the spices till fine and set aside. Beat Butter on high speed until light and creamy. Add in the spices and continue beating together. Slowly drizzle in some olive oil while beating. This makes the butter light and more flavourful
Pipe onto serving bowls.


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